Why do bees swarm

What happens when bees swarm?

When bees swarm, it is a fascinating sight: a large number of bees gush out of the hive and darken the sky for a while until the bees gather on a branch some distance away and form a cluster there. This act may be frightening to laypeople, but the swarm is the natural reproduction of bees.

The old queen moves out with the swarm of bees

If a bee colony is strong enough and has enough bees and plenty of supplies, it will often want to swarm. Because this is how the bees multiply in their natural way: one colony becomes two. But first the bees have to raise a young queen, only then can the old queen move out with the other bees. They do this in queen cells, where they feed a maggot exclusively with royal jelly - this is how it matures into a queen. Shortly before the new queen hatches, the old queen moves out with the flying bees as a swarm of bees. They do this around noon and often after a short period of bad weather. The main swarming season is May and June. Before the bees swarm, they suck their stomachs full of honey again. This supply lasts for about three days. Meanwhile, so-called track bees are already looking for a new apartment: often knotholes in old trees. There the bees build a new honeycomb structure and the queen begins to lay again.

The young queen stays behind

After the flying bees have flown out with the old queen, the nurse bees and the young queen remain in the colony. However, the new queen must first go on the mating flight and be fertilized, only then can she lay eggs. If a queen does not hatch, the bees usually make several queen cells. The queen who hatches first then kills the others to be the sole regent of the hive. In the case of strong colonies, it can also happen that a young queen swarms out again with some of the bees - beekeepers call this after-swarm. This swarm is much smaller than the first swarm, the pre-swarm.

Why don't many beekeepers want the bees to swarm?

Most beekeepers don't want their bees to swarm. There are many reasons for this: on the one hand, swarmed peoples no longer bring as much honey, on the other hand swarms have little chance of surviving if they escape. This is because the bees often cannot find a home and die from lack of food or the Varroa mite. Wild bee colonies can also spread diseases such as Varroa or the American foulbrood.
Most beekeepers therefore try to prevent the bees from swarming. This is achieved with various tricks in the operating mode: for example, by giving the bees enough space, carefully fleecing the bees or destroying the queen cells. To the online article: Swarm prevention - various methods. Beekeepers who are true to nature anticipate the swarm by simulating a swarm and removing the queen with some of the bees. In addition, in some breeds, breeders have almost succeeded in breeding away the bees' swarming instinct.

cas / bbu / 05/24/2019

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