The Beekeeper’s Corner – Bee Swarms

By Mike Gebert –

This article will answer a question I received from our website and has to do with bee swarms. We will start out this discussion by answering, “what is a bee swarm?”.  There are two basic reasons bees swarm from their parent colony.  First reason is the colony becomes too large to sustain all the bees living inside. The second is their colony becomes unlivable due to environmental reasons.

Let’s talk about the first reason; they become too big for their colony.  This happens because the queen is laying more eggs then the space can handle or there is a good supply of pollen and nector and the bees used all available space to store these items.  When the bees run out of room, they reach a threshold and realize it’s too crowded and decide to leave.  Once the colony decides to swarm, they signal to the nurse bees to feed the new eggs a large supply of royal jelly.  Royal jelly is basically a high amount of proteins, amino acids and other good stuff  which allows the eggs to become queens.  Once the eggs that will become queens are established, the original queen and about half of the colony leave the parent colony and fly off to their new home.

Once they leave the parent colony, they normally fly a short distance away and rest in trees, shrubs, houses etc.. while scout bees find their new home.  The bees will sit in a large ball and wait for the scout bees to return and tell them which way they need to go. The bees will stay in this location for a few days while they decide which location is best. Once a new space is decided upon, the swarm will fly to the new location and establish themselves.

The second reason bees swarm is environmental.  Environmental can be anything from, mold, high mite or small hive beetle counts to wood rot.  If you are doing regular inspections of your hives you can normally catch most environmental issues before they become a major problem.

Swarming is a good thing and shows that the colony became strong enough to split and spred there genetics, causing a good diversity of genes in your area.

Next article we will discuss what happens inside the colony prior to bees swarming, as well as what you can do to reduce the temptation of swarming.  As always if you have questions please feel free to ask by dropping me an email!

About Mike Gebert

The resident Everything Country beekeeper, Mike turns this Nectar of the Gods into everything from organic honey, candles and other products and provides How-To articles and videos for aspiring beekeepers.