When the first virgin
queen is almost ready to emerge, and before the main nectar flow, the colony
will swarm during the warmer hours of the day. The old queen and about half of
the bees will rush en masse out the entrance. After flying around in the air
for several minutes, they will cluster on the limb of a tree or similar object.
This cluster usually remains for an hour or so, depending on the time taken to
find a new home by scouting bees. When a location is found, the cluster breaks
up and flies to it. On reaching the new location, combs are quickly
constructed, brood rearing starts, and nectar and pollen are gathered. Swarming
generally occurs in the Central, Southern, and Western States from March to
June, although it can occur at almost any time from April to October.
the swarm departs, the remaining bees in the parent colony continue their field
work of collecting nectar, pollen, propolis, and water. They also care for the
eggs, larvae, and food, guard the entrance, and build combs. Emerging drones
are nurtured so that there will be a male population for mating the virgin
queen. When she emerges from her cell, she eats honey, grooms herself for a
short time, and then proceeds to look for rival queens within the colony.
Mortal combat eliminates all queens except one. When the survivor is about a
week old, she flies out to mate with one or more drones in the air. The drones
die after mating, but the mated queen returns to the nest as the new queen
mother. Nurse bees care for her, whereas prior to mating she was ignored.
Within 3 or 4 days the mated queen begins egg laying.