Inside a Swarming Bee Hive

Ahh, swarm of bees! Swarm of Bees! An actual
bee swarm is not something to be terribly afraid of. We actually had out hive at work
swarm lately and I wanted to show you what it looks like and give you a sneak peek inside
of the hive to show you a little bit of what happens. This is our glass observation hive,
you can look right inside into the hive. This is not typical behavior. The bees are usually
very calm. We pulled the covers off one day this summer to show the kids and the bees
were going absolutely nuts. They’re doing this because the hive is too full. It is not
large enough to hold all of the bees that have been born and they are getting ready
to leave. Look down here in the exit tube, they are falling over one another to get out.
This tube usually only has one or two bees in it at a time. They are just packed in there
trying to get out. Now there’s an interesting behavior that I was able to record. I didn’t
get the best recording of it but I’ll show it to you here. I’m not sure anyone has ever
caught this on video before as usually you can’t see into a hive while a swarm is going
on. What you’ll see now coming up right here is some of these bees have frozen in place
and the other ones are spiraling around them in a circular pattern. I believe this has
something to do with communication and communicating that a swarm is about to happen. I don’t know
if this has really been documented. If you are familiar with this pattern behavior please
do let me know in the comments. Those bees are spiraling around the ones that are frozen,
it only lasts a few seconds and it breaks apart. I’ll show it to you here again. You
can see that some of the bees have formed what are either concentric rings or a spiral
I”m not sure which one you would call it and the other ones are moving in a counter-clockwise
direction around them. They did this every few minutes or so it was quite an interesting
pattern and shortly after this happened is when most of the bees actually left the hive
and went outside. And here they are outside. At this point, pretty much most of the bees
have left the inside hive and they are sticking to the outside of the building. you can see
this is one of our naturalists Kathy getting ready to move the bees. You might think, why
would you want to go next to a swarm of bees? Bees that are swarming are actually at their
most docile. If you think about it, bees would attack or defend themselves when they are
defending their hive. These bees no longer have a hive. all the bees, including the queen
have left the hive. Here’s Kathy looking for the queen. She’s found the queen and she’s
pointing to it.It is very important that we find the queen when this happens. We don’t
want these bees to leave. They will eventually leave and find a new home. We’re going to
give them a new home and then be able to split our hive in half. Some of the bees will stay
behind and form a new queen. Some of the bees will go on to form a new colony where we want
them to. We simply have a wooden box and a cardboard box. We have a brush and will brush
the bees into the cardboard box and then transfer them to the wooden box. There are a lot of
bees flying around now but watch as they are brushed, the sky is even more full of bees.
They get a little agitated but no they are still docile. No one got stung. We don’t need
to get all of the bees. We want to get most of them. We need to get the queen in the box.
What will happen is once the queen gets in there she will give off pheromones. The smell
will come out of the entrance of the box and the rest of the bees will actually find their
way into that box to join her. They want to be with the queen and they pretty soon figure
out “Hey, this is a pretty cool place.” We leave the box in place until nightfall so
all of the bees come to their new home. We then ended up transferring this to our apiary
where we have more bees. This was the beginning of the summer. Within a week or so the bees
inside had a new queen. Some of the bees stuck around to form that new colony. The rest were
taken to our apiary and they are living there all happy. They will be a sort of back-up
set of bees for us should perhaps some of bees on the inside hive not survive the winter.
That is the process of a swarming hive. Hope you enjoyed it.


  1. Cool! My guess is that the author of Honeybee Democracy Thomas Seeley knows (or at least has observered) the behavior when bees circle up. Maybe ask him about it?

    I know that the book describes in quite detail what happens just seconds before the swarm takes off. But I can't recall it exactly now. One thing I recall is that there are a number of bees that run around, notifying the other bees about the imminent take off. Maybe that's why some are running around so fast?

    Anyways, I really recommend reading the book, it is very interesting and quite mind boggling.

  2. Awesome! That spiral formation is very interesting. I'm sure the kids really loved watching it. And then they got to witness the birth of a new queen. What a treat!

  3. I'm really surprised this video hasn't had more people watching! I'm a beekeeper in CA, and will be setting up an observation hive in a corporate environment. So glad you were able to catch this, such valuable info!

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