My Totally Unscientific Theory

Bees in a wall give us a good picture of the hives bees will create if left to their own devices. When bees want to expand, they don’t go upwards. They go sideways and down.

Bees in a Wall

Bees in the Wall

I have been assured that bees in walls do in fact swarm.  However, it is indisputable that they create huge colonies and impressive comb structures notwithstanding.

The first axiom of my totally unscientific theory is that the nature of Langstroth hives causes bees to swarm before they would swarm in the wild.

The Langstroth hive is designed for the convenience of the beekeeper, not the bees.  Bees are forced to build comb in the size and shape of the frame, not the way they would build comb in nature.

Conventional wisdom dictates that the bees must draw out comb in most of the frames before the next box of frames is placed on top. Things are fine as long as the colony is relatively small. That may be the reason swarms are rarely a problem in the first year.

But there’s a point when the colony is poised to expand exponentially. This is usually in the Spring of the second or third year.

The second axiom of my totally unscientific theory is that bees know when their colony is going to explode long before we do. As far as the bees know, there’s not enough room in the hive to contain the new bees and never will be.  So swarm preparations begin.

If my theory is correct, what should we do? Start adding extra room now, when breeding is just beginning. I’m going to test my theory this Spring and report back on the results.

2 thoughts on “My Totally Unscientific Theory

  1. Emily Heath says:

    I like your theory. I’m not sure what temperature it is where you are, but be careful about giving them too much space if it is still cold.

    Italians produce a lot of brood so tend to need more room. Langstroth hives usually fit a max of 61,000 bees per brood box. If your colonies are large you might be better off with a Dadant hive (popular in France), which is the largest Langstroth-style hive available and fits a max of 85,000 bees per brood box. Generally a smaller hive is more suited to colder areas and less prolifically laying queens, while a larger hive is better for warmer areas and strong laying queens.

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