What to do after a swarm?

So maybe you have found your bees hanging in a tree. Or maybe you saw a cloud of bees leave your hive and fly away. It is a sad thing, but you have fallen victim to honeybees’ natural tendency to multiply and spread far and wide. But do not panic, this happens to every beekeeper at one point. The main thing is to understand the reason your bees have swarmed, so check out our video here. It will help you brush up on how to keep this from happening again.

What is a swarm? Typically, it is about half of your colony (up to 50 000 bees) mostly composed of the old worker bees (the ones that can fly) and your current queen! Swarms are quite valuable, because they can build wax quickly, and usually have a mated queen.

If your swarm is visible, you may want to try to catch it. It is definitely worth a try. Check out our video on how to catch a swarm here! Make sure you hurry: they may not stay in their spot very long, usually an hour to 3 days in the same location. If you succeed, you will eventually be able to remerge your hives together, reuniting all the bees as one big, happy family.

During an inspection, how do you recognize that your hive has swarmed? In order, and the order is important, there are 4 indications:

  1. Many swarm cells at the bottom of your frames.
  2. We are not talking about small cups. We are talking about fully developed, capped queen cells that could emerge at any moment. Honeybees never swarm without making the proper provisions for the young colony they are leaving behind. This means that they will prepare upward of 10 swarm cells to ensure that one queen survives to take over the hive once all the old bees and the current queen fly away. Do not remove these! They are the future of your colony.

  3. No eggs in the hive.
  4. Last inspection, you had a beautiful queen that was laying a ton of eggs, but now, there are absolutely no more eggs. This is a clear indication that your old queen is either not laying, or is no longer there. Larvae and capped brood are still present, because she has only left a few days ago, meaning that the eggs that she laid a week ago are now further developed.
If you make these 4 observations, in the order they are laid out, then you can confidently assess that your hive has swarmed.

  1. You cannot find your queen.
  2. If you find no eggs, and cannot find your queen, then it is an indication that she is no longer in the hive. (Side-note! If you do find your old queen, but no eggs at all, this is a tricky situation. It means that your hive is just about to swarm, and you must move into emergency-swarm-prevention-mode! Check out our video here.)

  3. Reduced amount of bees.
  4. This is a pretty tricky thing to notice, especially for beginners. But if you have been keeping track of your hive growth, and taking notes after all of your weekly inspections, it will be clear to you that there are less bees in your hive if they have swarmed. A notable fact I would add is that if you are that meticulous, then you will prevent all of your swarms from happening in the first place! :)
If you make these 4 observations, in the order they are laid out, then you can confidently assess that your hive has swarmed, but can also rest assured that it will redevelop, because you have not removed the swarm cells in your hive.
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