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Urban conditions and swarming

I have read a few times now that urban areas/urban fringe areas tend to have a light nectar flow. Apparently this combined with good pollen supplies (also found in these urban/peri-urban areas) is great for bees to rear a large amount of brood. Naturally enough, that then is one aspect leading to swarming. I’m interested in how those conditions are better for brood production as opposed to high nectar flow areas such as accessed by commercial keepers (up to115kg a hive conditions in the Leatherwood forests of Western Tasmania). Is it that the bees are too busy collecting nectar to rear brood?

Hiya Dan, I’ve found the urban areas actually got a more consistent flow throughout summer. Here in a semi urban area, next to national parks, pollen was always coming in but lacking in nectar supplies. One colony swarmed on the first fine day in spring, minimal nectar plenty of pollen coming in though. Another colony swarmed during our main flow end of summer.
I’m still learning heaps about keeping bees but these bees aren’t doing me any favours!


I think @skeggley has it figured out and I would say the same holds true for where I live. So many more people have gardens and plant flowers these days. This definitely gives the bees more plants and flowers to draw nectar from consistently all summer long. This combined with all the other natural vegetation that blooms throughout the spring, summer, and fall gives the bees a consistent nectar and pollen source to draw from.

Thanks. Urban conditions do seem generally favourable. In relation to the correlation between nectar flow and swarming I wonder if it is a case that “sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t”. Sometimes low but consistent nectar (and good pollen) are good for brood rearing (and swarming) but also sometimes high nectar and pollen are also good for brood rearing (and swarming). Researching this topic further I found an article which sort of discusses this in relation to putting bees on canola. As often as high nectar encourages good brood rearing, the converse is also true just as frequently. The theory is that the bees wear themselves out foraging for nectar; wear themselves out ripening all that honey and also are frantic at the same time trying to keep the brood warm. Busy bees! Essentially they are dying more quickly doing all these things and thus the population is reduced and therefore congestion also. That goes on to mean perhaps a reduced likelihood of swarming.

Hi Dan, I keep my bees in an urban area, The bees certainly build up to swarming strength in urban areas. It’s prudent to monitor the bees to prevent swarming. They can certainly cause a lot of stress to homeowners during & after they move into the wall cavities.

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Hi Jeff, totally agree. It is certainly worth it for everyone to have a really good plan of action in relation to reducing the impulse to swarm. Bees of course don’t consider reproducing as rearing baby bees but that reproduction is making an entire new colony.

From people’s posts, and on very little experience, it appears to me that if you can get the bees through to a strong nectar flow and make sure there is enough space to store it, the bees focus on this but early in the season when the nectar flow is only just starting to build they put more effort into building the colony and potentially swarm.

Whether the cause is day length or how much is about nectar availability, I haven’t got a clue.

Last year in Perth (i.e. beginning of this season), the population in my hive (urban) started building mid August and they were building queen cells in early September with two 8 frame boxes full boxes of brood. The bottlebrush nectar flow started around mid September I think.

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Thanks Dunc, these are very interesting observations. My bees in Tasmania gathered good quantities of nectar - surprisingly - in early/mid August. Average night temps where I am are only around 3.0 degrees c. at that time. Daytime maximums however are more reasonable then. I think they hooked into a couple of Eucalyptus Globulus (our floral emblem with copious nectar) which flower here at that time. I guess it is likely an interplay between a variety of swarm influences ( drones/drone brood, nectar flows, pollen quantity, queen age, day length etc.). I’m sure, like you say, that the focus by the bees on strong nectar flows is important.

@Dunc Interesting. My urban hive population started to explode around late August/early September. I only got 1 play cup throughout this season. When the population was growing I removed a couple of flow frames and was rotating frames through the gap and brood box (no real issues with burr come, thankfully). Once I noticed increase nectar I put a hybrid super on my hive and then a few weeks later put a half height on for honeycomb.

I’m aiming to repeat the process this year to control the swarming impulse.

I might need to get a two or three frame cheap spinner to help with this approach though, unless I go the crush and strain route; most people I give honeycomb too would be a bit squeamish if the comb had been used for brood previously.


Keep in mind that, from what I understand, different colonys have different swarming tendencies. I’m fairly sure my pot colony would swarm it I looked at them the wrong way… :flushed: