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Chapter IV. Swarming, or natural method of increase

The natural method by which an increase of colonies among bees is secured is of great interest, and though it has been closely observed, and accurately studied for a long period, and has given rise to theories which were as often absurd as sound, yet, even now, it is a fertile field for investigation, and will surely repay into who may come with the true spirit of inquiry, for there is much concerning it which is involved in mystery. Why do bees swarm at unseemly times? Why is the swarming spirit so excessive at times and so restrained at other seasons? These and other questions we are too apt to refer to erratic tendencies of the bees, when there is no question but that they follow naturally upon certain conditions perhaps intricate and obscure, which it is the province of the investigator to discover. Who shall be first to unfold the principles which govern in these as in all other actions of the bees?

In the spring or early summer, when the hive has become populous and storing very active, the queen, as if conscious that a home could be overcrowded, and forseeing such danger, commences to deposit drone eggs in drone cells, which the worker bees, perhaps moved by like considerations, begin to construct, if they are not already in existence. In fact, drone comb is almost sure of constructions at such times. No sooner is the drone brood well under way than the large awkward queen-cells are commenced, often to the number of ten or fifteen, though there may be not more than three or four. In these eggs are placed, and the rich royal jelly added, and soon often before the cells are even capped, some bright day, usually about ten o'clock, after an unusual disquiet both inside and outside the hive, a large part of the worker bees, havin previously loaded their honey sacks, rush forth from the hive as if allarmed by the cry of fire, the quueen among the number, though she is by no means among the first, and frequently is quite late in her exit. The bees thus started on their quest for a new home, after many uprarious gyrations about the old one, dart forth to alight upon some bush, limb or fence, though in one case I have known the first swarm of bees to leave at once for parts unknown without even waiting to cluster. After thus meditating for the space of from one to three hours upon a future course, they again take wing and leave for their new home, which they have probably already sought out. If for any reason the queen should fail to join the bees, and perhaps rarely, when she is among them, they will, after having clustered, return to their old home. The youngest bees will remain in the old hive, to which those bees which are abroad in quest of stores will return. The presence of young bees on the ground, -those with flight too feeble to join the rovers, -will always mark the previous home of the emigrants. Soon, in about eight days, the first queen will come forth from her cell, and in two or three days she will or may lead a new colony forth, but before she does this the peculiar note, known as the piping of the queen, may be heard. At successive periods of one or two days one, two, or even three more colonies may issue from the old home. These last swarms will all be heralded by the piping of the queen. They will be less particular as to the time of day when they issue, and as a rule will cluster farther from the old hive.

The cutting short of swarming preparations before the second, third or even the first swarm issues is by no means a rare occurence. This is done by the bees destroyinng the queen cells, and sometimes by a general extermination of the drones, and is generally to be explained by a cessation in the honey yield.