The Swarming

With the arrival of spring, an intense period begins for the beekeeper. In fact, in this period the bees begin to produce honey and begin the swarming process. Although it is a completely natural phenomenon for bees, for the beekeeper it is not necessarily a good thing. 

Swarming is the definitive departure from a colony of a queen followed by the workers (the younger ones). It is therefore the phenomenon through which the hive “superorganism” multiplies. In fact, when the swarm reaches large dimensions it divides and creates a new family. 

The swarm that breaks away is made up of worker bees, drones and the queen bee who makes sure to leave before the new ruler of those who remain of the hive is born. 

Before the swarming, the bees begin the so-called “swarming fever”. 

  • The explorer bees begin the search for a new place to settle the new hive 
  • The worker bees begin to use the honey supplies, filling their honey bags, in order to carry the supplies of food with them to use in the stages of creating the new hive. 
  • The foraging bees (those that carry out the harvesting activity) slow down their activity, and begin to “shave”, or to gather outside the hive in clusters. 

What causes swarming? 

The age of the queen is a factor that greatly influences swarming, the older she is, the more ready the swarm will be. But also the space present in the hive is a factor that affects as well as the presence of diseases within the hive. 

There are also factors not related to the bees themselves that can cause swarming: 

  • The abundance of resources in the area 
  • The insolation 
  • The position of the hive itself 

It should be mentioned that factors beyond our control, such as the weather, also influence the swarming process.

Signs that indicate the beginning of the swarming. 

There are signs that are indicative of the imminent swarming and are the construction of royal cells and drone cells. The royal cells are built to allow the bees to replace the queen who will go away with the swarming. 

The drone cells will then be a further alarm as they will be produced without guarantee that the swarm can actually deal with them. But the clearest warning sign are the few empty cells in the hive. 

Other signals much more difficult to grasp are related to the condition of the hive itself. We refer in particular to the high level of carbon dioxide and the internal temperature of the hive as well as the smell of bees (particularly in this period) and the frequencies they emit The adult bees have a different smell from the young ones and, as we have seen, it is the younger bees that will actually carry out the swarming process. This is also accompanied by physical changes for bees.

How can we prevent bees from swarming? 

There are several methods we can try to reduce the risk of losing our beloved bees: 

  • Creation of new nuclei (In a certain sense, therefore, we carry out the swarming for the bees starting from the swarm which is too numerous) 
  • Family leveling (Removing frames with capped brood from the larger colony to place them in the crates of smaller families and replaced with wax sheets or combs already built. This encourages the bees to create another hive but in a much more controlled way) 
  • Elimination of real cells (This is a common but very time-consuming method. It also does not guarantee the desired effect if you are not careful.) 
  • Replacement of the Queen (Alternatively, the presence of royal cells could be used to replace the current queen by deleting it and introducing a new one).

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