Bee hives are incredible examples of social organisms. At their best, they are efficient communities producing food, brood, and infrastructure for 50,000 or so individuals. In fact they are so efficient that they can outgrow their hive quickly. When a hive is out of space about 60% of the bees including the queen will swarm, leaving behind their original hive in search of a suitable place to start another.
Before swarming the queen will lay eggs in special brood cells called “Queen Cups”, this ensures a new queen for the bees left out of the swarm. Around the same time worker bees will begin to cut back on the queen’s feeding in order to trim her down for the impending flight with the swarm.
When the swarm leaves the hive they will find a temporary resting place while scouts look for a suitable place to settle down. As the swarm begins building their new home, the original hive cares for the developing queens. Eventually the first queen will hatch, find the unhatched queens and kill them before they hatch. After disposing of her potential rivals the queen will take on her new role with the hive, replacing the departed queen and laying eggs to replace the workers lost in the swarm.
At the end of all this we end up with 2 healthy hives…which means double the honey!