To better understand swarming, it helps to understand bees not only as an organism, but also as a super-organism. Each individual bee is an organism, and reproduction of the organism is accomplished when the queen bee lays an egg in a cell and then the larva, and later the pupa, is cared for by the worker bees until a new bee emerges.
The entire bee colony is a super-organism, as no one bee can survive for very long on it's own. In this way, think of the bee colony as a single living thing which will also reproduce. Because, each year, a number of bee colonies succumb to disease, bad weather, attacks by pests and predators, etc., bees would eventually become extinct if they were not continuously creating new colonies. The reproduction of a bee colony begins when the bees prepare to swarm. Before swarming, the queen lays eggs in several "swarm cells" that the workers have built at the bottom of one or more combs within the nest. The larvae in these cells are fed a strict diet of only royal jelly in order to create new queens. The swarm typically occurs once these cells are capped. When they swarm, the queen bee and approximately 60% of the worker bees leave the colony and set off to create a new colony, elsewhere. When the new queens emerge from their cells, they will usually fight each other to the death, or, several may be killed while still in their cells, as only one queen can take over egg laying duty for the colony.
When a swarm emerges from a hive they aren't likely to fly very far at first. They often gather somewhere that is only 40 or 50 feet away. They cluster around the queen and send out between 20 and 50 scout bees to find a suitable new nest location. When all of the scout bees agree on a location, the whole cluster takes off and flies to it. This new location will usually be at least a hundred yards away from the original colony's nest, but could be as far as a few miles away.
This is where you come in. Swarming bees are extremely vulnerable. The only food that they have is what they took with them in their honey stomachs. They need to find a suitable home and they need to do it fast! Using swarm traps with pheromone lures is a highly effective means of attracting and catching swarms. Simply mount them on tree trunks, suspend them from branches or mount them on the side of a building. You can put one in your backyard, one at your friend's house, even one at mom and dad's. Check the traps twice a week and when you catch a swarm, use it to populate your new hive.
The photo above shows a swarm that has already built a substantial amount of comb in a trap, and demonstrates why it is so important to check your traps frequently. It is much easier to transfer the bees into your Warre hive if there is only a very small amount of comb already built in the trap; simply open the trap and pour them in! These bees were probably in this trap for at least a week before being discovered.
Swarms frequently consist of 4 to 5 pounds of bees. As long as the weather is fair and there is nectar to be found, these bees will prosper from day one. If the conditions are poor, you can install a hivetop feeder to help them get started building comb.
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