Swarming is a natural occurrence in bee colonies. This is an urge to preserve the specie. This way the bee colonies reproduce.


When the bees get the urge to swarm, they make many queen cells in order to make a new queen.


When swarming, colony split in two parts.


One part leaves the hive with the old queen. They look for a new place to live. 


The other part stays in the old hive with the new queen.



When does the swarming occur?


The urge to swarm happens during the spring and summer when the colony is fully developed. In other words, when there are more young bees in the hive than there is open brood that needs to be taken care of.


Because of this young bees don't have much to do, so they gather in groups at the lower parts of the frames. And when a frame is taken out of the hive they can be seen hanging in clusters from the bottom of the frame.


Impulses for swarming:

Young bees have nothing to do

Urge to preserve the specie

High temperatures 

Not enough room in the hive

And so on…



Urge for swarming


Urge for swarming effects young bees the most. They make many queen caps on the honeycomb in which the queen lays eggs. After that the bees make queen cells around them and nurture the larvae as future queens.


Although bees usually make those cups on the edges of the frames, they can make them anywhere else on the honeycomb. Because of this when the queen lays in those cups and bees start making queen cells out of them, most of those queen cells are on the edges of the honeycomb, but they can be seen in other places, too. This is why the position of the queen cells on the honeycomb can't be used as an indicator whether they are swarm cells or another kind of cells (emergency or supersedure).



Queen cups

Queen cups are frequent and normal occurrence on the honeycomb and you don't need to be alarmed by them. They can be found throughout the year so they alone are not sign of swarming. 


To learn how to distinguish queen cells from queen cups, go to: Queen Cells.


Beginner beekeepers loose a lot of time checking every cup they encounter - trying to figure out if there are eggs or larvae in them or looking for cups on the honeycomb so they can destroy them.


You shouldn't do this. The hive should be kept open only as long as it is necessary otherwise robbing may occur, espeacialy during the dearth. Also, destroying the cups (or the queen cells) won't stop the swarming.


During  inspection you don't need to pay attention on cups at all but only on the queen cells (if you see some).



Queen cells


Not every sign of queen cells in the hive means that your bees are swarming – bees also make queen cells when they want to replace the old queen (supersedure) or they loose their queen and need to make a new one (emergency cells).


More on these three types of queen cells and how to distinguish them you can find here: Three Types Of Queen Cells.


Bees don't make all swarm cells at the same time. First they make one group, than the second and finally third.


As soon as the first queen cells close the whole colony experiences restlessness and euphoria.



The first, the second and the third swarm 

Depending on conditions, one to three swarms may leave the hive. This is very unsettling for beekeepers because when the third swarm leaves, the hive is left with the weak colony with small number of bees and so they try to stop this in any way.


When leaving the hive the swarm takes food with them to the new place so they can start building the honeycomb right away.



First swarm


The first swarm leaves as soon as one number of the queen cells close.


During the swarm leaving, mass of bees start rushing out of the hive.


The old queen, few hundreds of drones and few thousand of worker bees leave the hive and form a swarm in air.


The swarm chaotically circles above the hive but quickly lands somewhere near – usually on the tree branch. Bees gather there and continue to hang there in a form of a cluster. They stop buzzing and the swarm calms down.


Usually the swarm stays there for a few hours but sometimes it can leave quickly. And sometimes they can even stay until the next day.


During this time scout bees are checking for a new place – some nice hollow tree or other convenient place. When they’re satisfied, the swarm lifts up and moves to that new place.



Second swarm


If the conditions that caused swarming haven't changed, after a few (usually 7-9 ) days the second swarm will leave. What makes it different from the first one is that it contains young unmated queens that emerged from the queen cells in the meantime.


When the first queen emerges, bees take care of her but don't let her kill the other queens in the queen cells. So that queen starts reproducing a distinctive sound and other queens in the queen cells respond to her. This is called queen piping.


This kind of piping can be heard if you put your ear on the hive in time when queens are emerging.


When the swarm leaves the hive there are few young unmated queens in it so it separates and gets together a couple of times in the air and when it lands somewhere it stays there very shortly.



The third swarm


If there is still the urge to swarm, a few days after the second swarm the third one will leave as well.


The third swarm behaves the same way as the second does.



Recognizing the urge for swarming


Hive is full of bees

Young bees hang at the bottom of the frames with nothing to do.

Big number of queen cells

Queen reduces laying eggs or stops completely


It can be hard for beginners to distinguish swarming from the emergency queen cells, therefore make sure to carefully read Three Kinds Of Queen Cells one more time, where this is well explained.


Beekeepers try to prevent swarming in any possible way because the colonies that do so give significantly less honey. 

The colony losses working mood during swarming. Bees will also bring some honey with them so they have some food supplies in a new home. One part of bees leaves with the swarm and colony stays weaker in numbers and if the second and third swarm leave, there are very few bees left in the colony. This is why the beekeepers tend to stop this with any means possible.


In this tutorial we will show you the ways to prevent the urge for swarming. Urge for swarming isn't always preventable, therefore we will also teach you what to do when urge for swarming has already appeared.