On St. Patrick's Day one of our bee hives swarmed and exited the hives around mid-day. At first they gathered in an acacia tree overhanging the hives. After staying there for a while, they moved again flying over the greenhouse and out of Blake Garden. Later in the day they were seen again by a neighbor below the garden. We called our beekeeper Chris Bauer, and he came early on the 18th to inspect the hive that the bees left. He took some closeup shots and made some interesting observations and discoveries. Chris explains:
Bees start swarming at this time of year as a way to expand their numbers. Roughly half the bees from an established colony, including the current queen, will vacate the hive in a swarm and take up temporary residence nearby. That's what you see in the video above as the bees settle in an acacia tree. When scout bees from the swarm locate a suitable hive location, the swarm takes off again to set up permanent residence somewhere much more protected. The other half of the original colony stays where they are with a new queen and continues on exactly as they had been before. When the process is complete the original one colony has become two.
One of the reasons the hive in the video swarmed is that they had expanded extremely rapidly and filled out all the space in their hive. Every inch of the boxes were stuffed with bees, wax, and honey. I added an empty box to the ones they already had to give them more room to build comb in and fill out.
The other close up pictures show how bees use the cells of comb for different purposes. The white cells to the left are capped over and contain honey. Adjacent to the honey are cells that hold pollen. Pollen is used as a protein source and combined with honey to feed young bees which is why next to the pollen cells are cells containing young bees. The young bees in these pictures are in a larval stage and look like little curled up grubs. When the young bee larvae reach a certain point of maturity they are sealed into cells to complete their growth into adult bees. The darker sealed cells on the right of these pictures hold rows and rows of bees that will emerge by chewing off the wax caps of their own cells and start contributing right away to the life of the hive.