Our honeybees swarmed!

Bee swarm on juniper branch

We are beekeepers and love our bees, their pollination of our plants and in some years the honey they provide. Plus we want to support them by not using chemical pesticides or fungicides.

This spring our bees were starting to outgrow their digs and were planning to swarm. How do I know? They made queen cups and started laying eggs in them and producing queen larvae. Once they decide to make a new queen, it is hard to turn their thinking around. So when we saw a queen cup with a developing larva and royal jelly in it and another queen cup with a new egg in it, we knew they would swarm and split their hive unless we split the hive before they did.

Swarming is good thing for a bee hive. It means it is doing well and has too many inhabitants and some need to move on. So we found the existing queen and transferred her and some brood and honey and pollen bars to an empty hive we had. Great! They seem to be doing well. So now we have two hives. But there were still queen cups in the original hive with about 10 developing larvae in them. We thought the other bees would take down the queen cups.

We thought that would be the end of it but no, there’s more to the story. Last weekend, I was out in the part of the garden closest to the first hive and noticed they were getting very noisy and started leaving and circling around in a great mass of bees and I knew they were going to swarm. I assume that one queen hatched and saw all the other queen cups with larvae in them and decided to leave with about half the hive before the others hatched. A hive can only have one queen and when a new queen hatches, it will go along and kill off any other queens that are ready to emerge with it except this one was quite further along in it’s development while the other larvae were not very developed yet.

The swarm ended up on a tree branch about 30 feet away and had formed a long ball of bees about 30 inches long by 12 inches wide where many thousands of bees had gathered. I’m guessing about 30 thousand! From there the swarm sends out scouts to find a new home in which to move to. The swarm waits to hear the reports from the scouts before moving again which can take from 3 hours to 3 days depending what the scouts find. Of course we suited up but when the hive swarmed, they are the most docile as they are out of their element so to speak. We ran over to another empty hive we had previously set up and put some more bars of brood and nectar in it from the original hive.

Then we went back to the swarm and I cut the branch down while Elodie held a big tupperware container underneath them and they fell  about six inches with the branch into the box. We then carried the box over to the new hive and put them inside. Hopefully they are happy and have a good queen to get them going. The original hive now has a lot fewer bees in it so hopefully this is the end of swarming. It is exciting we caught them before they left the property but also it is a little newvewracking too! Now we have three hives!

7 comments on “Our honeybees swarmed!

  1. Frances Ehrenberg-Hyman says:

    That is very exciting!!!! Congrats!


    • yes it was-glad I took my high blood pressure med that day! I hope they don’t split again from that original hive as I’m not sure we have the food resources for 4 hives. Luckily the apple trees bloomed first, the catmint is blooming right now, the lavenders and kitchen sage have blooms ready to blossom, spirea will follow and russian sage will follow that with blooms a little later. Grew bee friendly, drought tolerant plants to keep them happy and supply them with nectar or pollen. Hope you both are well Fran!


  2. Teri says:

    Jannine – that is SO awesome. Very glad you were able to accomodate them. We need MORE bees!


  3. Helena van Heiningen says:

    Thank you for documenting and explaining how and why swarming occurs. Hope everyone is happy now.


  4. Pamela Grob says:

    It was so wonderful to see the videos and info on the swarming of the bees and how you made new hives for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sherry Snyder says:

    I now realize how little I know about bees.Never heard of queen cups and royal jelly. Maybe a future Homegrown New Mexico class could look at swarming. Hopefully you’ll have a better-than-usual harvest of honey. Good luck!


  6. tonytomeo says:

    How nice that they have a comfy home without going anywhere. There is a building here that swarming bees have returned to a few times. No one knows why they keep coming back. The wall that the first swarms got into has been dismantled and cleaned, but another swarm just found another way in somewhere else. My colleague’s office in Southern California has the same problem, but that is probably because it is within the best landscape in the neighborhood. I am told that the swarms go to good homes.


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