Bees permanently move out of their hive only under two circumstances: one is called absconding and the other is called swarming (see questions and answers below.) If environmental conditions become too stressful for the bees in the colony, they can decide to stop their normal activities and abscond. This means closing up the honey shop and moving to another location, as opposed to swarming, in which the colony divides but the old nest continues to function.
Bees may abscond because the food resources in the habitat may be inadequate, for example, or the colony may become unmanageably hot due to extreme weather conditions. They do not simply leave, however, because the workers will not abandon their baby sisters - the larval and pupal brood that cannot yet fly - nor will they leave a large amount of food in the storage areas of the honeycomb. Absconding is a process during which the bees stop rearing new brood, cease foraging, and begin scouting for a new, more suitable nesting location. It isn't well studied, and it is a variable process, more common among Africanized bees than European bees.
Beekeepers can discourage bees from leaving the nest by creating optimal conditions as the colony grows by providing more space with additional hive components into which the colony can expand. For reasons that are not well understood, Africanized or "killer" bees are much more likely to move by absconding than European bees.
Swarming is a natural process by which a new colony is formed. When a hive becomes overcrowded, the worker bees instinctively know that it is time to swarm and to raise a new queen. Several large cells are created around fertilized eggs laid by the queen. When the larvae emerge from these eggs, the cells are flooded with royal jelly to foster the development of a queen rather than an ordinary female worker.
When the queen larvae are ready to enter the pupal stage, during which they will develop into adult queen bees, their cells are sealed with wax by the workers. At some point after the first queen cell has been sealed, the old queen leaves the hive in order to avoid being killed by the new queen when she emerges. The departing queen is guided by a group of as many as ten or twenty thousand worker bees in a primary swarm. If more than one new queen emerges in the old colony and the first to emerge does not kill the others, there may be subsequent smaller "after" swarms, each led by a new queen.
Contrary to the popular belief that a swarm refers to a marauding pack of angry bees, when honey bees swarm their bellies are full of honey and they are in a gentle mood. They are prepared to stay out in the open for a day or more, and some of the bees begin producing large quantities of wax scales from glands in the abdomen in preparation for building combs in the new hive. The entire group lands temporarily in an exposed spot on the limb of a tree or on the side of a building, and they wait while some of the bees serve as scouts. The scouts find a suitable spot for the new colony and then return to direct the swarm to this new location. When the swarm arrives at the new site, they begin to build new brood combs within hours with the wax they have been secreting.
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Note: This article was sent to us by: Bernard C. Monoud at 08192010
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