Beginning Beekeeping

Everything you need to know to become an enthusiastic beekeeper !

Honey Bee On FlowerWhat Are Swarming Honey Bees About ?

Big Swarm

Honey Bees swarm for one main reason, to propagate their species. The hive normally decides to swarm, for the most part because it is too crowded. The workers will first create some new Queen Bee cells and the existing Queen will lay eggs inside these peanut shell looking special cells. These new Queen cells will ensure that the bees left behind after the swarm will be able to continue to exist with a replacement Queen.

Before the actual swarm begins to leave their hive, about half of the Worker Bees engorge themselves with honey. This will be their food to sustain themselves in their new home until such time as they have built new comb and filled it with nectar and pollen.

Once they are ready, upon some unknown signal, the old Queen and all the Worker Bees who have engorged themselves with a supply of honey will pour out of the hive and the old Queen will fly to a nearby bush or tree limb. All the Worker Bees will then fly to this location and get into a big clump surrounding the Queen.

In the meantime, Scout Bees have left and are flying around looking for a good spot to build a new home. The Scout Bees return to the swarm and communicate their find to the rest of the bees. It is believed they do this by means of a special dance which tells which way to fly to find the new spot. At some point, after absorbing all this new information from the Scout Bees, a decision is made to fly to what they believe is the best location and begin to build a new hive. Swarms normally do not stay in one spot for very long. Now and again they may hang about in the same place overnight. I believe most swarms have moved on within less then a couple of hours.

This new location can be a tree with an empty hollow part, inside the walls of your house, into an empty bee hive at a beekeeper's bee yard, or if the climate is warm a enough year round they may just build their combs hanging freely from a tree branch. In colder climates, such as we have in North America honey bees cannot survive left out in the open when the weather gets colder and wetter as it does in the fall. They have to be inside some sort of structure to protect themselves from the harsh winter elements. It is not the cold temperature that will kill them but the windy cold and wet and sometimes icy weather.

Honey bees in a swarm have no real interest in attacking and stinging you. If you live in an area where there are African Bees ( the southern part of the US from California to Florida ), I would stay far away from any swarm. African bees are much more aggressive and are easily agitated into attacking people and animals. Use extreme caution in these areas.

Swarm Cells

Photo of Queen Bee Cells - these Queens are being raised by the workers for the purpose of swarming. Queen Bee Cells that are protruding from the bottom of a frame are intended for 'supersedure', which is replacement of the Queen Bee because she is failing in some way, perhaps falling back on the number of eggs she lays every day.

The first Queen Bee of this group to emerge from her cell will immediately sting each of her rivals to death while they are still inside their cell.

Updated June 18, 2017

© 2010-2017 Albert W. Needham