Swarming: The Natural Reproductive Process of a Honey Bee Colony

Honey bees, one of the world’s most prolific species of pollinators, are incredibly important for food production. However, their swarming behavior can often be misunderstood and cause concern among homeowners and the general public. It’s essential to understand that swarming is a natural reproductive process of a honey bee colony and plays a vital role in their survival as a species.

The Reproductive Season and Swarming

Swarming usually occurs during the springtime, which coincides with the honey bee’s reproductive season. This process is triggered by an abundance of springtime flowers that produce pollen and nectar, serving as a food source for the growing colony. As the days grow longer and the temperature warms up, honey bees follow an 8 AM – 5 PM working schedule, similar to humans. The timing of swarming is closely related to the availability of pollen and nectar. It can occur about two to four weeks before the nectar flow or about two weeks into the nectar flow. During this time, bees forage to gather enough resources to boost the mother colony in preparation for the birth of a new colony. In regions with harsh winters, honey bees seal off their hive entrance with propolis, a protective substance, until the first signs of spring. Once spring arrives, an outburst of honey bees heads towards the nectar flow to refuel and prepare for swarming.

Understanding Swarming Behavior

Contrary to popular belief, bee swarms are not acts of aggression or attacks. The media has often exaggerated instances of bee swarming, leading to misconceptions. In reality, when bees swarm, the risk of being stung is actually low. Swarming is a complex process involving various behaviors, but going on a stinging rampage is not one of them. One of the reasons a beehive may swarm is due to congestion within the hive. When the hive becomes overcrowded, the queen signals the worker bees to initiate the swarming process. This signal prompts the construction of new queen cells, which ultimately leads to the swarming event. Swarming helps relieve congestion once the swarm leaves the mother colony, allowing the colony to split and form a new colony.

The Colony as an Organism

When bees swarm, their goal is not to increase the chances of survival for each individual bee but, to ensure the survival of the entire colony. A honey bee colony is considered one organism due to the symbiotic relationships within it. The colony exhibits coordinated behaviors, such as respiration, where the entire colony breathes in and out in unison, similar to a lung. This collective respiration is comparable to the respiration of an average-sized house cat.

Without the collaboration of every component within the colony, the natural reproductive process of swarming could not occur, and the species would not exist. Swarming is a remarkable natural process of reproduction that we are fortunate to witness in our lifetimes. The existence of honey bees is crucial because approximately 70% of the world’s agriculture depends exclusively on their pollination services.

In the end, swarming is the honey bee’s natural process of reproduction and plays a vital role in their survival as a species. Understanding the significance of swarming helps dispel misconceptions and fosters appreciation for these incredible creatures. Without honey bees, our existence and global food production would be severely impacted.


  1. Wikipedia. (2022, March 19). Swarming (honey bee). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swarming_(honey_bee)
  2. Clemson Cooperative Extension. (2020, March 27). Frequently Asked Questions About Honey Bee Swarms. Retrieved from https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/frequently-asked-questions-about-honey-bee-swarms/
  3. Bees4Life. (2018, March 22). Guide to Bee Swarming – Everything You Should Know. Retrieved from https://bees4life.org/bee-extinction/solutions/sustainable-beekeeping/swarming
  4. Tennessee Department of Agriculture. (2022, November 9). Honey Bee Swarms. Retrieved from https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/businesses/bees/honey-bee-swarms.html
  5. Purdue University. (2022). Seeing Swarms of Honey Bees is a Good Thing. Retrieved from https://ag.purdue.edu/department/btny/ppdl/potw-dept-folder/2022/honey-bee-swarm.html

Avatar photo
Posted: March 9, 2022

Category: 4-H & Youth, Agribusiness, Agriculture, Clubs & Volunteers, Events, Farm Management, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Fruits & Vegetables, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, Livestock, NATURAL RESOURCES, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, UF/IFAS Research, UF/IFAS Teaching, Wildlife
Tags: Agriculture, Bee, Bee Info, Beekeeping, Bees, Colonies, Colony, Hive, Hives, Honey, Honey Bee, Livestock, Nectar, Organism, Pollen, Pollinators, Reproduction, Spring, Swarm, Swarming, Swarms


Donna Castro
March 10, 2022

Thank you for this thoughtful post! I am a registered beekeeper and love the analogy of swarming as "giving birth". So true! Also, I have actually stood in the midst of a swarming hive and there is nothing more exciting and magical. They are truly NOT aggressive when they swarm and even when they are clustered together on a branch looking for that next home. I always tell folks that if you just let them bee, they will be gone within the week. I didn't know that tidbit about how they breathe; that was fascinating!

Barbara McAdam, Urban Horticulture Program Specialist, A.S. for Miami-Dade County
Barbara McAdam

June 30, 2020

Pollinators are some of nature's most fascinating creatures. They are the reason the beauty and fragrance of flowers evolved. Meet some of our local pollinators and learn how to provide an environment to support them, protect them and bring them into your life.


March 2, 2018

Hi Adam! It would be best to contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office here is the link to their page. http://www.broward.org/Parks/Extension/Pages/Default.aspx Best Regards.

Adam Farber
February 28, 2018

Hi, I live in Cooper City in Broward and have some tough weeds I can't seem to get rid of in my ST. Augustine grass. I have used Bonus S from Scotts and spot sprayed Weed B Gone for Northern and Southern lawns right on the weeds but no luck. I am attaching a couple of pictures in case you cn identify the weeds and suggest a remedy. Thanks for any help. Adam Farber Cooper City, FL Phone: 954-494-3432

November 2, 2017

URGENTE Tengo en el patio de mi casa un enjambre de abejas ,pero mis vecinos las están envenenando y están muriendo por miles . Pregunta puede alguien del gremio ayudarme para que las ubiquen en un sitio productivo sin temor al exterminio ? Entiendo que es una especie protegida y en proceso de extinción . Solicito ayuda .

Soil Testing Services
April 29, 2015

Thanks Vanessa Campoverde. As Soil testing is very important process by which elements like phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulphur, manganese, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc are chemically removed from the soil, Using Grid Soil Sampling Manure Application we also can make soil more fertile.

June 13, 2012

Clarence: You are more than welcome to send a picture with the short description and what is happening in any nursery. This works for for us to communicate. Thanks for the suggestion!

Clarence A Chamorro
June 12, 2012

I love your Blog. This is fantastic. Can we post pictures and ask question base on the pictures? Can we talk in spanish?

Frank Fornari
May 31, 2012

Great job Vanessa! Thank you for everything you do for horticuture in south Florida.

May 31, 2012

Ray: I will try my best to keep up with this blog. Thanks and I hope to see you at the workshop on June 26th!!!

Ray Rueda
May 30, 2012

Congratulations Vanessa. I hope we get lots of inputs from you and from all nurseries.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories