10 questions about bee swarming

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10 questions about bee swarming

Beekeeping without swarming is practically impossible. There is, however, a way to reduce swarming. Here are ten questions and answers that we often ask about swarming.

Why swarming?

Swarming is the only way for the bee to multiply. As it swarms, the colony creates an additional colony. The swarm that leaves the hive will settle with the old queen in a new place. The half of the colony remaining in the hive will give birth to a new queen which, after fertilization, will ensure the fate and development of the colony.

What happens during the swarming?

On a beautiful sunny day, half of the colony will emerge from the hive with the queen. In the swarm, all age groups are represented.
This swarm will spin in the air for a few minutes and then settle in a tree, on a stake, under a ledge or anywhere else.

Where is the swarm going?

At this moment begins the work of the scout bees who will seek a suitable place to find shelter. A cabin, a shutter cage, a hollow tree, a fireplace ...
Once the location has been chosen, sometimes after a day or two, the swarm moves in and the workers will call back near the entrance to attract straggling bees.

What is happening in the hive?

In the original hive, half of the colony remains, but without a fertilized queen. Before they left, the bees started a royal breeding by giving more royal jelly to young larvae. This one will develop other than a worker, in particular the reproductive organs and be born larger. The bees will also stretch the wax to form the queen cell.

After birth, the first queen will kill the others and then undertake her mating flight to be fertilized.

How to avoid swarming?

To avoid swarming, there are many ways:
  • Choose a breed with low tendency to swarm
  • Have young queens
  • Make the bees work
  • Increase hives on time
  • Eliminate queen cells

Removing queen cells is enough?

It may help, but it is usually not enough. When the bees want to swarm, they leave even if there is no royal breeding going on.

My hive is in swarm fever. What to do?

You find that there are queen cells, a very populous hive, inactive bees, all signs of swarm fever are present. There is only one thing to do, take an artificial swarm.

To do this, take three or four frames of the beehive that have swarm fever and put them in a new beehive. Add two new frames in the hive. In the beehive, you will have make sure to take a frame with food, a frame with open brood and a frame with closed brood. Place the beehive either in the apiary or in another apiary.

You have the choice of leaving the queen in the original hive, which will ensure its development or, on the contrary, to place it in the new hive which will gain three weeks in its development.

How to capture a swarm?

We talked about this point on a previous post, check it: How to capture a swarm

Should we treat a swarm?

Yes, without hesitation. When you retrieve the swarm, it has no brood, which doesn't mean there is no varroa. Take the opportunity to treat it with oxalic acid or Apivar, so you will eliminate a maximum of varroa and promote its development.
You can also get rid of varroa with natural methods, check this post How to get rid of varroa with natural methods.

Multiple swarms. Why?

Sometimes after a first swarming, a second or even a third swarming occurs. Why?
Quite simply because the first queen who was born could not eliminate the other queens. These multiple queens cannot co-exist and they take flight with part of the colony. As the swarms progress, the swarms get smaller and smaller and in addition the queens are virgin because they leave the hive before having been fertilized.
These swarms are of little value and will take a long time to develop.

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