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Why do Bees Swarm? How Honey Bees Move Their Hives
Why do bees swarm?
Bees usually swarm during spring but can also swarm in summer and fall. What causes bees to suddenly get up and move in large numbers? This is normal bee behavior.
Honey bees, which are social insects (eusocial technically), function much like a living organism. The colony must also reproduce just as the individual bees do. Swarming refers to the reproduction of a honeybee colony. It occurs when a colony splits into two colonies. The survival of the honey bees depends on swarming. Overcrowding can lead to a decrease in resources and a decline in the health of the colony. Every now and again, bees will fly to find new homes.
The workers will make preparations to swarm if the colony becomes too crowded. The queen's worker bees will eat less so that she can fly and lose some weight. A chosen larva will be fed large amounts of royal jelly by workers who will then start to raise a queen. The swarm will begin when the young queen is ready.
The colony will soon see at least half its bees leave the hive. This prompts the queen to take off with them. The queen will land on a structure, and workers will surround her to keep her cool and safe. Although most bees tend their queens, some scouts bees will start looking for new places to call home. Although scouting may take only an hour, it can take several days if the location is not easily found. The bees that are resting in large numbers on a mailbox or in trees may draw attention to themselves, especially if they have been in busy areas.
After the scouts bees have found a new colony home, the bees will help their queen settle in the new location. The workers will begin building honeycomb, and then resume their duties of raising brood, gathering food and storing it. If the swarm happens in spring, there should still be plenty of time to build the colony's food and supplies before it gets cold. Swarms in the late seasons are not good for colony survival. They can cause pollen and nectar shortages that could lead to a short supply of honey.
The workers who remained behind care for the queen while they are back in the original beehive. They continue to collect pollen and nectar, and to raise new generations to help rebuild the colony's population before winter.
Actually, the exact opposite is true. Swarming bees have left their hive and have no brood or food to defend them. Swarming bees are usually docile and can be safely observed. You should avoid bees swarming if you have an allergy to bee venom.
An experienced beekeeper will find it easy to collect a swarm of bees and move them to a better location. Before the bees find a new home, it is important to collect the swarm. They will protect their colony once they have found a home and get to work making honeycomb. Moving them around will prove more difficult.
Beekeepers can choose to start a new colony each spring by placing package bees or nucs in a new beehive or buying fully-established hives from another beekeeper. However, some enthusiasts enjoy adding to their collection by locating and moving honeybee colonies.
Swarming is the natural way honeybee colonies reproduce. The queen is replaced by the original colony, which leaves the hive with half the worker bees and as many honey as possible. The swarms will land on a structure close to their original hive site and then cluster, while the scout bees depart in search of a new location. This stage is where swarms are captured and used to populate an unpopulated hive. The swarms will immediately begin building comb in their new home.
When they are swarming, honeybees can be at their most calm and docile. They don't have honey or brood to protect their hives at this stage. Their honey-guts also contain honey from the original hive. Because it is physically hard for full bees to tilt their abdomens enough so they can sting, full bees are gentle. It's almost like practicing karate after Thanksgiving dinner. However, genetics are a major factor in bee behavior. Some colonies are just more pleasant than others, just like humans.
The swarm season is generally between spring and early summer. Connecting with local beekeepers will increase your chances of finding a swarm. Join beeallies.com or other local swarm lists to increase your chances of finding a swarm.