A Swarm of Bees

(a swarm - a group of many things in the air or on the ground)

If you find a large 'clump' of bees, hanging from a branch this is a bee swarm.

This clump is a queen with her new colony, looking for a place to build a nest.

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A swarm of bees in the school playground


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The huge queen bee is in the centre

Why do bees swarm?

The biggest reason why bees swarm is overcrowding.

If a bee colony gets too big for the hive the queen will lay eggs

in special queen cells, then leave the hive with about half

of the workers to find a new home.

When is a hive too big?

A normal beehive in the winter has about 12,000 bees.

In the spring, the queen bee starts laying thousands of eggs

to build up the bee workforce to about 50,000 bees.

The hive needs heaps of workers to get as much nectar

as possible from the spring and summer flowers ready to turn

into honey, their food for the winter.

But with all the new bees, the hive starts to run out of room

to store honey.

So...

The bees build some big cells to hold eggs from the queen.

They are filled with royal jelly and sealed with wax.

The first queen to hatch thrusts her stinger into the other

egg cells and kills the other queens before they hatch out.

There's room for only one queen in the hive!

Meanwhile...

The worker bees gorge themselves with honey and follow the

old queen out of the hive.

They buzz around in a big cloud, sniffing the air to find her.

She gives off a special chemical to tell them where she is.

Once they've found her they settle down around her and send

some bee scouts off to find a new place for a hive.