April 12, 2010

No swarming yet this year. But, I’d thought I’d show you some pictures from when my bees swarmed last year. Why do bees swarm? Two answers that beekeepers often give are that either the bees don’t have enough room, or that they are doing really well and reproducing the hive. We do know that if the queen doesn’t have enough room to lay eggs, or if there isn’t room for them to store honey, it will stimulate swarming. So, what is a swarm? I’ll give you the short version here. The worker bees (females) have decided to produce another queen. This happens when they feed a fertilized egg royal jelly- special queen food. When the new queen emerges, she will fight the existing queen. She may also go into other queen cells (if there are any) and execute other developing queens. If the existing queen and the new queen are equal matches and neither is killed, the bees will prepare to swarm. When the bees swarm, up to half of the colony will leave with the virgin queen. Once they are established in a new home, the queen will make a series of mating flights so that she can begin laying eggs in the new colony.

The bees gorge on honey before they swarm, so they tend to be somewhat gentle.

Another view of the swarm from a bit further back


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