In the spring time after a long winter of hibernation the colony responds to warmer temperatures and the increase of available pollen. This triggers the queen to begin building up her brood to increase the population so the hive can thrive and begin the process of putting up stores of honey in comb.
The outside lying areas within the hive is where the drone comb is drawn out by works for the queen to lay drone eggs. They are generally not found within the large flat area of the frame. In comb twice the size of normal female bees, the queen begins to lay drone eggs. This is nature’s way of beginning the process of growing and splitting to increase the population of bees.
When a number of triggers transpire, a weak queen that is no longer a strong layer, the queen dies, over population, immature queen layers lay new eggs that are found generally at the bottom part of the frame of normal brood. The workers will keep the queen away from these new cells, because instinct is for the queen to open and kill the new queen larva.
Generally, at a time determined by the workers they will take the queen on a swarm flight after the scout bees have found an acceptable new location to nest. The word goes out and the majority of the hive begins to gorge themselves, knowing they will not have food stores for some time. These swarm gorged bees are not aggressive. They just want to follow the queen. Make a new home. Go back to one big happy family again.
Sadly, if weather turns bad, rain or extreme cold the swarm will die. In most instances, the swarm may return back to the hive without the old queen and join forces with the new queen that will hatch from the new queen cell. This lone swarm has a very poor chance of surviving if they stay on this exposed fence post.
Bee keepers catch swarms because we can take that swarm hive back into the apiary and feed the hive and assess the health of that queen. In our yard we will replace that queen with a new queen cell which we have grown in our ‘queen nursery bank’. How that process works is another subject and story.
So, Swarms are nature’s way of increasing the population of honey bees. I am not sure of the actual percentage of the survival rate of a swarm, but in our yards, they even die sometimes after we have captured them. If we can help them grow a new queen that is strong and healthy we have gained a new colony.
We love when they decide to swarm to our apiary sign. This is a quick catch of the swarm and they will live to grow into a new larger hive.