Why do bees swarm? i’m asking for a friend…

“But let me understand…from nothing, out of the blue, you got a swarm?”

“Out of the blue we realised that they swarmed, they come from our apiary and they found a shelter among our roses, and it’s not the first time, probably they like this corner much!”

“So they left the hive to have a tour around??”

“Not exactly, one day I will tell you about swarming as well!”

“Ok, at the moment for me they are simply teenager bees that left home to have a tour somewhere…Beenagers…and after this I suppose you will pretend to don’t know me anymore!”

Yep, it can happen that bees swarm, it’s something natural. Bear in mind that the beehive won’t stay empty in this case. Bees decide to put effort to breed a new beequeen and once at a good point, the ‘old’ beequeen flies away with part of the family (around half), leaving in the beehive the new beequeen and the rest of the bees. About how you realise that there is a swarming going on, we have spoken the last time here Swarming: tell me, what does it consist of? – Gaeblini. Nevertheless, you too may wonder, like my friend here above: why do bees swarm? Nice question! Let’s continue this path into the swarming world, by answering to this specific question here below!

Indeed! Why do bees swarm?

Why do bees swarm? lack of space!
When there’s not enough space

Is this a teenager crisis? Beenagers crisis? Even if I deeply love this term, no, it’s not at all. But let’s try to ponder about it, imagine: you are a bee, you are in your very nice hive, with your sisters, your beequeen, some drones here and there, everything’s ok. Tell me: when would you decide to leave your hive? What would you convince yourself to fly away with half of your crew? ‘Ehyyy we start to be too many in here!’ – That’s right, a little bees that was passing here behind has answered in the meanwhile. The first reason maybe seems banal, but it’s simply the lack of space. They litterally can’t stay all there anylonger. It’s a very strong family, with much brood. Much honey. It’s natural that at a certain point the space is not enough. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

Ok, and now? Which other reasons there may be??

Other two reasons about why bees swarm

Yes, because there are more…

Too small spaces seem to be the only possible cause, nevertheless, there are two further more that can influence swarming. If from one side we have an extremely healthy, strong and active superorganism that needs simply more space, to the other side we have a kind of instinctive reaction to external conditions. I would have never imagined this, but swarming can depend as well on:

  • Health situation: bees as any other living being can get sick. Indeed, there are some diseases that might affect the superorganism. This can cause a swarming as self-protection mechanism. In this case, the swarming is a kind of way out from problems that would be very difficult to be sorted out otherwise. For example, it exists a kind of bee (Apis Cerana) that swarms to decrease Varroa effects. this is still a world to be deeper inverstigated, but several studies have shown that a swarm that leaves a family with any disease shows a drastically decrease of the virus and/or spores if compared with the original superorganism. It’s a truly (literally) way out strategy from a disease.
  • Environmental and climatic conditions: in this case it’s mankind´s fault unfotunately. Over the last years, there are more and more swarmings everywhere, the environmental and climatic factors are influencing these happenings. Even if we find them in our apiaries, bees are not OURS! They are not domesticated animals. They are wild creatures and they react to the surroundings accordingly. A kind of reaction that pure nature has when in danger is its own multiplication. Hence, they try to reproduce as much as possible to safeguard their species.

An old beequeen could be another cause for swarming?

Here it is. Another point: the beequeen. Often people think that this is one of the main reasons why bees swarm. An old beequeen, not efficient anymore. Almost inexisten pheromone. What shall we do? Shall we dethrone her? C´mon, let’s do this! As much logic as cruel. Nevertheless, from the last webinar about swarming prevention, I have found out a pretty different version. The beekeeper Gianni Stoppa, the same one that spoke about the points here above, has explained that the beequeen can influence swarmings, but generally she’s not the direct cause. What does this mean?

When bees start to feel the need to swarm (for the three reasons mentioned above), they don’t feed the beequeen so much anylonger (poor one!) to let her lay more eggs and then fly away. They will let her a more limited space available to lay eggs and extremely low quantity of food. Bees visit her much less often and due to this they less perceive the pheromone. At that point, bees understand that the beequeen is ready to swarm. This is how the beequeen indirectly lead to swarming.

Before concluding, a couple of words from our hearts…

One day I will tell you more about where this blog idea started from 🙂 What I can shortly tell you here is that like I think (and hope) you have perceived so far, there is much passion and will of sharing these little big discoveries of mine about beekeeping world. I receive often questions from who follows us (like at the beginning of today article). This makes us so enthusiastic and motivated. Of course, we don’t lack motivation, but interaction and active participation from who follows and reads us inspires us even more. Ponder and ask us, write us, share us,…Being shy is forbidden, since from a question for example (and there is no stupid question) an article can be born. Right like this one! Thanks once again to Laura, hence, for following us with much interest, this gives that further deeper meaning to our projects.

That said…even swarming universe is really endless. Do you believe you too that it’s interesting? What do you think? If you have questions or comments, leave them here below! We’ll be so happy to read you and we thank you in advance because you are fuel for our projects!

A hug,

The Gäblini

13 thoughts on “Why do bees swarm? i’m asking for a friend…”

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