Why Do Bees Swarm

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Bees swarm as a natural form of reproduction.
The bees make one hive into two.

 
 
Bee Swarm on fern

When do bees swarm

Swarming occurs in spring and is a natural event in the life of a bee colony. It occurs when food sources are readily available and the bee numbers are rapidly increasing.

Bees swarm to multiply the number of hives. A trigger for this is that the numbers in the hive increase and things get crowded. The hive is aware of the seasonal change and that spring is the best time to swarm, so a new hive has time to become established over spring and summer.

Bees typically swarm in New Zealand between October and December.

 

How do they swarm

At some stage, the hive decides to swarm.

They make several Queen Cells; special cells that are larger than normal cells that house the new queens. Once several cells are made (sometimes between 3 and 7, and normally found at the bottom of a honey frame), then the existing queen leaves the hive and takes around half the bees with her. This is the swarm phenomena that we see.

The swarm looks for a place to establish its hive. This can be in a hole in a wall, a roof cavity or a cavity in a tree.

Back at the original hive one of the new queens hatches out and kills the remaining queens. She then goes on several mating flights, returns to the hive and becomes the new queen.

 
 
Large bee swarm
 

Why do bees swarm?

In this video Maddie explains why bees swarm and how they do it.

This is one of the easiest to understand videos on swarming.

Are bee swarms dangerous?

No, quite the opposite, bees in a swarming state are probably the most placid. Bees that are swarming have left their hive, and don't have a hive to guard or food stores to defend. Swarming bees tend to be passive, and can be observed safely. Of course, if you are allergic to bees, you should avoid contact with bees, swarming or otherwise.

It's relatively easy, depending on where the bees swarm too, for an experienced beekeeper to collect a swarm and move it into a hive. It's important to collect the swarm before the bees choose a new home and start producing honeycomb, otherwise accessing the bees in a wall, or down a chimney can be very problematic