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LESSON 11: Swarming, Causes and Control

Swarming is a very real problem for any beekeeper. When bees swarm, they usually divide the colony into a large group and look for a new hive. They do this for several reasons, which we will explain below, but whatever the reason, you should be happy to know there are ways to avoid it from happening. When the colony swarms, it splits the colony — the colony that leaves the hive will leave with the old queen, and the colony in the old hive will have to create a new queen to run the show. Below are some common reasons why bees will swarm.

Pic_SwarmInTreeCauses of Swarming

  • The population has grown too large and the hive is too small.
  • There's not enough room to store honey.
  • The temperature is too hot. With higher temperatures, more space is needed for each bee to maintain a cooler temperature.
  • The hive does not have proper ventilation and air drainage. If the bees cannot ventilate the hive properly and temperatures rise, they will be likely to move out of the hive.
  • High humidity and poor ventilation make the hive unbearable for the bees.
  • Problems with the queen. Especially older queens have a tendency to fail to produce in times of high production of the colony.

Prevention and Controlling Swarming

  • Always give your bees more than enough room. Bees need room to rear brood, store honey, nectar, pollen and produce beeswax. If in doubt, always add more room! Too much room is better than not enough.
  • When bees are in the process of building up the colony and growing, they should get a good amount of sunlight and warmth. Later on, during the honey flow periods, it may be necessary to shade the hives if you live in a very warm climate.
  • Give your colonies plenty of good ventilation in warmer weather. Take out entrance reducers during hot periods and try staggering the supers so they are not flush on top of each other—this allows more air flow.
  • Maintain good air flow and drainage to the hive at all times. Keep grass trimmed around the hive and place the hive in an area that gets good air flow.
  • Use young queens if possible. Older queens have a tendency to fail during times of high growth and egg laying.

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