Why honeybees swarm in New England
To witness honeybees swarming is truly a spectacular and fasinating event. Although it may be scary to a person without beekeeping experience, there is little chance of danger.
Let us start our explanation by picking a time in the honebee's year. During the Dec, Jan and Feb months the honeybees are clustered on frames inside the boxes which we call hives. This winter cluster can consist of several thousand to 40,000 bees. The bees are not dormant and produce heat in the cluster thru muscle vibrations. They need honey consumption to perform this task, so for winter survival honeybees rely on storing 75-100 lbs. of honey.
In the March and April months flowers begin to bloom providing the bees with nectar sources. With the renewed food source the queen can lay eggs to replace the aging population and increase the size of the colony. It is at this juncture that the swarm possibility starts.
Let's assume ideal conditions for swarming. The winter has been mild which has allowed the bees to take occasional cleansing flights (50 degrees or warmer) and has reduced the need to use all the honey stores. The worker bees (female) eggs evolve from egg to bees in 21 days. The warmer the spring days get and the more nectar comming into the hive results in a decrease of empty comb cells and overpopulation. This condition is achieved rapidly within a healthy colony.
The colony will now want to divide in order to aliviate the crowded situation. The worker bees begin to build larger peanut shaped cells which the queen will lay eggs in. The bees feed these eggs differently than worker eggs, thus allowing new queens to develop.
The queen egg evolves to a queen bee in 15 1/2 days. Before the new queens hatch, the old queen flys away from the colony followed by approximately half the population of bees. This is now a swarm. This swarm will congregate sometimes on a tree branch and usually not far from the hive. Hundreds of "scout" bees will fly around looking for a hollow cavity. These cavaties can be in a tree or the they can also be in a home. Potential cavaties in homes may be inside chimneys, walls, roofs and crawl spaces. Once the scout bees locate the best potential home, they bring in the whole colony and a new colony is started.