§ 96. Swarming is the natural way of increase for bees. It usually takes place
in May or June, in the North.
For some days before swarms issue the bees may be seen clustering at the
entrance of their hive, though some come out where there are little or no
indications of a swarm. When honey is abundant, and bees plenty, look for them
to come forth at almost any time, from the hours of 10 in the morning to 3 in
the afternoon, for first swarms; for second and third swarms, from 7 in the
morning until 4 in the afternoon.
By examining the colony it can be ascertained whether they are about to swarm.
If queencells (6) are seen with eggs or larvae nearly ready to be sealed over, a
swarm may be expected within one or two days after the first cell is sealed
over, or as soon after as the weather will permit.
After whirling a few minutes in the air, the mass of the bees will cluster on
the branch of some convenient tree or bush – generally one that is shaded from
the sun’s rays. They should be hived as soon as the cluster is formed, else they
may leave for the woods; or, if another colony should cast a swarm while the
first are clustered, they would probably unite.
Should the queen fail to join the bees, by reason of having one of her wings
clipped, or for any other cause, the swarm will return to the hive as soon as
they make that discovery. As the bees are gorged with honey they may be handled
without fear of stings (Fig. 64).
§ 97. “Afterswarms” being unprofitable, all but one of the queen-cells should be
destroyed, or cut out – this will usually prevent any more swarms issuing.
Within eight days, the first queen will hath and will take possession of the
§ 98. The queen has very little to say as to swarming preparations. If a second
swarm is desired by the workers they will prevent the first queen (6) from
destroying the other queen-cells, which are sometimes very numerous, even on
small pieces of comb (Fig. 65). She would be sure to do this if not hindered in
her desires. If thus restrained, she will show her irritation by “piping,” and
this piping is answered by the other queens which are kept prisoners in their
cells. The second swarm then issues within two or three days.
After the departure of this swarm, and the emerging of the second queen, if her
“piping” is also answered by a third queen, a third swarm may also issue. If the
desire to swarm is satisfied after the departure of the first swarm, all the
queencells will be destroyed by the first young queen that emerges. The
worker-bees often help her in this task, which she performs with great alacrity
How to Hive a Swarm.
§ 99. If the cluster be low it is easily performed. Have a hive in readiness,
slightly raised from its bottom-board in front. A sheet is spread in front of
it. The limb on which the swarm is hanging may be cut off and the swarm carried
to the hive and shaken down on the sheet. By watching for the queen she will be
readily noticed and directed towards the hive. She will enter it eagerly for she
loves darkness. The bees will crawl into the hive, and finding the queen, be
satisfied to remain. When the bees are in, place the hive where it is to remain;
a shaded position is the best. If comb foundation (Fig. 85), be placed in the
frames, it will be of very great advantage in comb-building.
If the bees have clustered on a branch or twig, which is too valuable to be cut
down, a basket, box or swarm sack (Fig. 68), will be quite essential, into which
to shake or brush the bees. If on a wall or fence or on the trunk of a tree,
brush them into the basket and proceed to hive as before described.
Sometimes the swarm is placed where it is even impossible to brush the bees into
a box, or perhaps the number which may be gathered together at one time is so
insignificant that they take wing at once to return to the cluster. Then, if a
comb of brood may be had from another hive, or even if a frame full of dry comb
can be used, by placing it over the swarm, the bees will soon recognize it as of
possible use to them and will readily cluster upon it, or they may be gently
smoked so as to direct them towards it. But care must be taken to not frighten
If the colony is noticed in the act of swarming, the queen may be caught as she
emerges from the hive and put into a cage (126, Fig. 66, also 131) and allowed
to run in with the swarm, (Fig. 67).
If two swarms have taken wing at the same time, and cluster together, they may
be evenly divided by placing two hives on the ground and direction the bees
equally to both, especially if the queens are found and caged and placed at the
entrance of the hives. Bees may be scooped or shaken without much trouble when
the swarm is gathered and they are easily directed to one hive or another if
A frame of brood placed in the new hive will be of much advantage to the bees.
It will prevent the swarm from leaving the hive, and should the queen be lost it
will give them means of rearing another. By filling the other frames with comb
foundation (135), they will soon be in good condition and perfectly at home in
their new quarters.
Sometimes a swarm will go to the woods without clustering – but this is rarely
The beating of tin pans is, of course, of no avail; throwing a stream of water
from a fountain pump is often done to bring down an absconding swarm, and cause
them to alight and cluster.