Why Honey Bees Swarm
Have you ever wondered what causes bee colonies to swarm? It might be a bit of a startling sight (and sound) but the reason behind swarming is a very positive one! Swarming is a natural part of their reproductive process and occurs when one colony will divide into two.
When a hive gets too small for a bee colony, they will decide to swarm. This means that part of the hive leaves and the rest stay behind and both will become viable colonies on their own. The worker bees “force” the queen to fly out with the swarm as they need her to lay eggs to begin the new colony. The worker bees take 3 days worth of honey with them in order to build new comb and have food until they can forage. The bees that are left behind in the original hive will start raising a new queen.
When bees swarm they will leave the hive in a great multitude, flying and buzzing out all at once and will soon settle into a big clump on a branch. Once settled, the scout bees leave the swarm to look for a new home. This usually takes a few hours. While the bees are looking for a home the beekeeper has the chance to give them the new home by shaking them into a hive box. As long as the queen gets inside the box, the rest of the swarm will follow her. Once the remaining scout bees arrive back, the “new” colony can be moved and left to grow into it's own strong colony. By providing them with a hive containing drawn out comb and honey, the beekeeper can make sure the bees survive and helps them with a bit of a head start.
If a swarm isn't caught in time, they will settle in a tree. These swarms often won’t make it through the winter as they don’t get the help from a beekeeper to insulate their hive from the cold. With that being said, swarming can be averted if enough boxes are added onto a hive once a beekeeper sees the bees are running out of space.
As you can see in our last photo, this swarm was in the process of being successfully relocated into a nice new hive for them to settle into. Home sweet home!