Swarms are a natural phenomenon in beekeeping that all of us will have an opportunity to manage at some point along our journey. Once members of your community find out that you are a beekeeper, the phone will start ringing throughout the spring as swarms appear.
At the point where honey bees become so congested in their hive, the workers bees will choose several larvae of the proper age, and start feeding them copious amounts of royal jelly. These larva are then nurtured to become queen cells. Swarm cells are normally found at the bottom of the frame along the bottom bar. Workers then begin to reduce food provided to the existing queen (put her on a “diet”) so she will reduce her body weight enabling her to fly. Environmentally, nectar and pollen are abundant, giving confidence to the queen and workers that they will survive.
Swarms start with the queen leaving the hive with approximately one-third to one-half of the bees in the hive. They travel approximately 30-50 yards from the hive and gather to ensure that the queen “made it” with the group. At that point, the scouts begin searching for a new home. Swarms generally will only stay in their initial gathering spot for 1-3 days. Take a picture, they are awesome to see, then call your local beekeeper to see if the swarm can be caught before its departure.
Travis Lane of the Concho Valley Beekeepers Association provides a detailed explanation of what swarms are, how to manage, transport, and hive them in this 7 part video series. Travis has been managing honey bees for over 30 years. His skills and knowledge of managing these phenomenal creatures is unsurpassed.