Ever wondered why bees swarm, why a swarm of bees looks like a hive, or why it disappears so quickly?
If you see a swarm of bees, you are most likely witnessing a swarm of honey bees.
Interestingly, these bees are not native to Australia. Honey bees (Appis mellifera) were introduced from Europe around 1822, to ensure a good supply of honey for pioneers. This is because Australian native bees do not produce as much honey as European honey bees, as they are relatively primitive.
If you’re curious, here’s the scientific explanation of why honey bees swarm.
1. It’s basically a giant bee orgy
The natural reproductive cycle of honey bees involves swarming. It is essentially the way that bee colonies reproduce.
They do this in the warmer months, usually in the Spring, as there is an abundance of nectar and pollen. This is because this supply of delicious nectar provides the colony with an opportunity to increase their colony rapidly.
Field bees and the queen bee find a nearby tree or shrub 15 or 20 metres above the ground (sometimes in the city this can occur on a power line or aerial). The Queen Bee then buzzes around collecting bee sperm, in what can only be described as a bee orgy.
2. It gives the scout bees time to find a new home
Whilst the Queen Bee and the field bees have a fun-filled afternoon of mating, scout bees search for a new place to call home. Scout bees are the first bees deployed, and this can occur when there is a change of season, when there are too many bees in the colony, when the queen is ageing, or a variety of other genetic reasons.
Scout bees are usually female, and it is their duty to find food sources and new hive locations that are in close proximity to these food sources. It is their responsibility to find flowers that produce the delicious nectar that boosts honey production.
Once they have found a new home suitable for the colony, they return to the orgy and communicate their findings to the colony by dancing an elaborate wiggle to indicate the food location, or by carrying the scent of the flowers on their body to lead the colony to their new home.
After the orgy is complete, and the Queen has collected the sperm, she will fly back to her hive and spend the next three to four years laying up to 2,000 bee eggs per day.
Have another question about why bugs do the things they do? Leave it in the comments 🙂 I’m happy to answer any and all of your insect related questions.