The Honeybees’ “Housing Crisis”
● What happens when there is no more room in a beehive? “Scouts” are sent out to find a new home. They may find an empty box, a hollow tree or a hole in a wall. Then the queen bee and many of the “worker” bees leave the hive in a swarm—a sort of flying colony. But some workers are left behind to care for the family that will continue to hatch from eggs already laid in the old home, including a new queen. So instead of sending a few bees away from the colony, most of the family moves from the old home!
This can really frustrate a beekeeper, and so one keeper in Florida decided to study the problem. He writes: “Finally I realized that the moment of ‘blast off’ was not important. It was too late to stop them then. Rather, I had to make them follow my plan. Bees swarm when they run out of room; so I reasoned, Why restrict the queen, the very life of the hive, to just one room? I decided to give every queen another room, a two-room apartment. So I provided a second story to each queen’s apartment.
“It worked; they stayed! And now, I simply become the ‘midwife’ to the birth of each new colony. At the proper time, I divide the hive. There are always plenty of queen cells and drone cells in both ‘rooms’ of the queen’s apartment. Selecting the best of these, I arrange for the next hive.”