Bees are a wonder of nature. They can be said as the fascinating creatures one can come across. From their great organizing and planned behaviour to their robust and capable skill sets, bees are very inspiring. We can learn from these tiny, wonderful creatures. Bees live in a very well-established and organized hive with specific roles designated to every bee who will continue to perform their assigned role perfectly.
There are two females and one male in every honeybee colony. The hive has one head which is a female and is known as the queen and has the job to lay eggs. The queen can lay an egg every 20 seconds during its peak time. Then, there are drones and worker bees. The drones are always males, and they are only responsible for mating with the queen to increase reproduction within the colony.
The worker bees are again female, and they have been assigned the task to forage and bring in nectar to the hive and process it into honey. Continuous reproduction within a colony can lead to an increased honeybee population in the hive and make it more crowded. Overcrowding the hive can lead to scarcity of resources and can also be a threat to all the honeybee living in the hive. A natural response to this overcrowding is swarming.
What is Swarming?
Swarming is a natural process in which a colony will divide into two to be able to survive. Bees reproduce within the hive, in a similar way the colony will also reproduce as a whole which is referred to as swarming. Swarming is beneficial for the honeybees because it helps them survive and thrive and is also fruitful for beekeepers. Swarming is, in fact, a sign that a hive is thriving and operational to its fullest.
It is one fantastic process to witness. The old queen will always leave a new queen in charge of the existing hive and leave the hive with almost half of the population in search of a new home. In the meantime, till they find a new abode, the bees will stick together in one place, somewhere near their old hive, protecting the queen. This is usually referred to as a swarm. A swarm is mainly harmless unless it is provoked.
Swarming is the stage which beekeepers are looking for to repopulate the hives and build new ones. Beebuilt is experts in catching bee swarms and building up empty hives with thriving bees. It may sound a dangerous task to catch a huge bunch of buzzing bees, but, you need to have the right expertise to catch them.
When do bees Swarm?
Bees usually swarm in between spring and early summer season. The bees that are all prepared to swarm will generally leave the hive in the warm hours of the day. Spring season is an exciting season for beekeepers. They keep a keen eye on the hives to look out for signs that can indicate that bees are ready for swarming.
During this season, finding bee swarms in urban and populated areas is also very common. People living in areas where bees are quite common should have basic knowledge on how to react when they encounter a bee swarm. Panicking and threatening the bees is the last thing you should think of. People should know that bees outside their home are weak and not dangerous, but if they sense danger, they will not hold back to protect themselves!
As soon as you encounter a bee swarm, the most sensible thing you can do is to contact your local authorities so that they can get a beekeeper or local bee protection organization in touch with you to know about the whereabouts of the swarm and come and safely capture it.
Signs that indicate Bee Swarming
Bee swarming is a natural process of colony reproduction. It is best for the bees to survive and function entirely, but swarming also means that bee will use up the honey to make themselves healthy and will leave the hive resulting in reduced production of honey. In the wilderness, bee swarming is not an issue, but for beekeepers, this can result in some serious loss if prior planning is not done.
It is essential that beekeepers are trained to look out for signs that indicate the starting of a swarm and are well prepared to take necessary action to maintain their production and prevent any harm to the bees. Here are some of the signs that beekeepers should keep looking for during late spring and early summer season:
- The queen cells no longer have wax at their tips.
- Look out for cells present at the edges of the beehive comb; they are the capped queen cells, also referred to as swarm cells. If these cells have eggs in them, then surely the bees are preparing to swarm.
- Building up of new queen cell cups.
- There is an increase in drone and worker bees
- A large amount of stored food in the hive and lack of storage space.
Once the cup cells have eggs in them, you can witness a swarm within nine days because it takes between 1 to 9 days for the larvae to become queen. Beekeepers should always be ready with some empty hives and extra bee swarm handling equipment to capture the bee swarm. A swarm will initially cling to some nearby object for a few hours to a few days until they find a new home.
During this time, the beekeepers can capture the swarm and provide them with a new home instead of letting them fly away. This way, the bees will form a new colony, and the beekeepers will not lose a huge bee population- a win-win situation!
Why do bees Swarm?
Everyone needs space to live and grow. Lack of space can result in a lack of productivity and efficiency in performing tasks. For this very reason, bees also opt for swarming to continue to thrive in a healthy and spacious environment. During the warm and pleasant seasons, like spring and summer, the population within the hive greatly increases and in response to the increased population, the bees will decide to swarm.
Another reason to perform this action is the natural process of reproduction. Every specie is looking forward to reproducing to increase its numbers. Reproduction within a hive is limited and cannot exceed the available space. Swarming is hence, the only solution to enable the bees to continue reproduction in a much open space.
Swarming is a well thought out and carefully planned process. The first thing that the bees will do is to build up queen cells where the queen will lay an egg for producing the new queen to take over her when she leaves the old hive. The queen’s only job is to reproduce. This makes her very heavy, and she is unable to make a flight.
When the bees plan to swarm, the queen will stop laying eggs in order to prepare herself to fly. The worker bees will reduce feeding her so that she can stop laying eggs. Once the new queen is going to hatch, the old queen along with almost half the hive population will leave the hive and look for a suitable place nearby to make a stop.
The queen is although prepared to fly but is still unable to fly long distances so they will gather in someplace very near to their old hive. The scout bees will then fly away to look for a good place to build their new hive. In the meantime, the remaining bees will protect the queen.
At this point, you can capture the swarm or let them find their new location and make their move. A lot of organizations like bee necklace are working in order to protect the bees, swarm, and to help them populate and grow.