Bee swarming is a process in which, on average, half of the bees, together with the old queen, separate from the existing colony in order to form a new colony. This is a form of vegetative reproduction – the division of a well-developed bee community into two: one part of the bees with the old queen finds a new home and the rest of the bees with the new queen remain in the old habitat.
Swarming is a completely natural phenomenon of bees because they have an instinct to enable the spread and survival of society through many generations. The need for swarming usually occurs when there are a large number of bees in the hive, which overlaps with the period of the main grazing or during it. However, not every appearance of a large number of bees will represent the need for bees to swarm. If favorable conditions for the normal course of society are provided in time – there will be no swarming.
It is considered that the main factor is the insufficient space in the hives, however, in addition to providing adequate space, other factors can also trigger a swarm of bees. Some of the factors are: genetic (hereditary factors), age of the queen as well as weather conditions. During warm periods, the ventilation inside the hives can be very poor, especially in hives with extensions. Due to direct exposure to warm weather and sun, there is an increase in temperature inside the hive and insolation. Rainy periods prevent queen bees from grazing and prevent bees from doing their work outside the hives. This leads to a reduction in nectar yield, egg laying and litter development.
However, when the need for swarming arises, society wants to produce a new queen and does so by building a queen. Lemongrass is the first sign of swarming and appears on the edges of honeycomb frames with a litter. The bee colony then forces the old queen to lay eggs in the stem cells – in order to breed the new queen. About 7 days before the new queen is born, the bees in the hive become upset while the workers who will come out with the swarm take the biggest meal of their lives.
The newly formed swarm is called the “firstborn” swarm and it comes out of the hive in the period from 10 am to 2 pm, with a peak around noon and it is usually very busy and with a lot of noise. In rare cases, during hot weather, the swarm may appear early in the morning around 7 am or late in the evening around 5 pm. The first swarm consists of half worker bees, several hundred drones and after they leave, the last one comes out of the old queen. After 7 to 8 days after the “firstborn” leaves the hive, it is possible for another swarm to emerge from the rest of the society – the “secondborn”, which is half smaller than the first swarm. In rare cases, the appearance of a “third child” is possible in three days, and the swarming of bees continues until a very small number of bees.
The “firstborn” doesn’t fly far from the mother hive, but hangs mostly in the first convenient place. It can be a branch, a wall, a pole, a leaf, a car, a stick, a bush or some other hive, a rock or a boat – the possibilities are different and they are increasingly seen in urban areas in poles. Once it descends, the swarm of worker bees will surround the new substrate and form a moving mass of bees in the form of “clusters” that last for several hours.
This short period is an ideal time for beekeepers to act to house a swarm which, if it does not happen, very quickly turns into a new natural habitat that scout bees find. The bees in the new hive can be diligent, and build a new honeycomb very quickly, and the queen will lay eggs more and more intensively. However, keep in mind that the number of new beehives is declining because the first young workers will appear only in 21 days.
The swarming of bees, in addition to the natural one, can be caused artificially if the beekeeper needs it. It does not diminish the working ability of beehives or the urge to collect food. There are several methods of artificial digging: Nuclear digging; “Lineburg” method; dehumidification by the “Pellet” method; dehumidification by the “Semerford” method; degeneration by the ordinary combined method.
However, for many beekeepers, swarming is considered an undesirable phenomenon of modern beekeeping. How can bee swarms be prevented? By careful observation and proper keeping of the beekeeping diary. If you examine your societies in detail, you will surely see the appearance of lemon balms in time, which are, as we said, the first signs of swarming. By removing them, you can try to prevent swarming and thus ensure that your bee colony continues to function normally.