What factors influence the causes of honeybees’ swarming tendencies



One of the partial factors to trigger swarming may be the lack of royal substance in the colony. Young queens tend to have more royal substance as they lay more eggs. Therefore they tend to be more attractive to the bees and hives with young queens do not swarm as willingly as hives with older queens. However, the rule has not been established completely, as the higher age of queens has not always been proved to cause reducing the production of the royal substance.


Another factor to consider is a disparity between the open and capped brood and overcrowding of the nest. Excess of hatching young workers consume royal jelly, which accumulates in the colony since there is not enough open brood in the colony for its consumption. This causes anatomical and behavioural changes among workers; they become so-called laying workers, i.e. workers with developed ovaries. Later, these workers may also lay unfertilized eggs from which only drones may hatch. It is known that swarming mood may also be affected by pollen nutrition. The more favourable the pollen grazing is, the more intense and sooner the breeding, and also swarming. Good nutrition leads to hatching strong swarming workers, which can trigger the swarming process. Nowadays the following interventions are recommended:

A) Remove the bees in the phase of capped brood. From the strong colonies prone to swarm mood a reasonable number of combs with capped brood and hive bees is removed. This is performed during the period of growth before reproductive instinct overwhelms the building Thus we withdraw those bees, which could recruit into the ranks of swarming bees. The colony must spend energy to restore their numbers; the energy then cannot be invested in swarming. A prerequisite for success is an early intervention and its implementation in due measure.

B) Remove adult bees. Adult bees can be removed for the creation of artificial swarms. To do this it is necessary to have a mated queen. This method can be combined with the first method, we may remove just the brood from one colony and the adult bees from another colony.

C) Employ the bees as nurse bees. Open brood is removed from weak colonies and is inserted into those colonies prone to swarm, from which the capped brood is removed and placed into the weak colonies instead. This slows down the rapid development of colonies prone to swarm and supports the colonies that would otherwise give little yield. However, this method is laborious and the effect is a short-term one.

D) Remove the foraging bees from the colony. It is a method of relocation. In practice, however, it is scarcely used for its The principle of the method is a procedure in which during the full flight of bees, the hive with a swarming mood is placed aside and is replaced will another hive with several brood combs and queen cells. Foraging bees returning from grazing cannot find their hive. In its place, they find another hive with brood, in which they settle. This way we rid the displaced hive of the foraging bees and the bees that stay inside suspend the already built queen cells.

E) Force the bees to work. As an early intervention, we arrange the hive space so as to avoid hindering the bees’ activity, particularly avoid overcrowding of bees. Sometimes, mere reordering of supers is enough, e.g. when the brood and reserves are concentrated in the higher supers and the lower supers are weakly occupied. Even more effective is to add additional space to the colony. It is easiest with the hives consisting of supers, we may add the entire super of empty combs or foundations.

We only add the entire super of foundations when we are sure that the bees will immediately draw it out. Thus the colony gets new cells for brooding and stores. They employ young bees there and avoid crowding the space. However, foundations which are not drawn cause opposite effect. Therefore when the flaw ceased we rather add a super of finished combs to the strong colony where we fear swarming. In hives with limited space and very strong colonies we need to use another intervention – probably one of the options described in paragraphs A and B.

The above-described interventions against swarming tendencies may not always have the same effect. The same intervention sometimes can achieve the desired result, sometimes it can not.  Swarming tendencies are determined substantially by genetic predisposition. We can claim that the sooner and more intensely the queens begin brooding, the sooner the colonies are ready for reproduction by swarming. Development of swarming mood depends also on the habitat conditions (sun, shade), the season, colony development, the plenty of flow, the size of the hive space etc. It is necessary to extract honey on time in order to encourage the foraging bees to collect and process nectar and prevent them from preparing for swarming. Lack of air may also cause swarming mood. Therefore, in many hives meshed bottom boards are used.

It can be said that bees swarming tendencies are explained as a phenomenon with a number of factors involved. Excess of royal jelly affecting the ovaries of worker bees is considered crucial.