Why Do Bees Swarm? How Honey Bees Move Their Hives

Why Do Bees Swarm?

How and Why Honey Bees Relocate Their Hives

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Bees usually swarm in the spring, but occasionally do so in summer or even in fall. Why do bees suddenly decide to get up and move en masse? It’s actually normal bee behavior.

Bees Swarm When the Colony Gets too Large

Honey bees are social insects (eusocial, technically), and the honey bee colony functions much like a living organism. Just as individual bees reproduce, the colony must reproduce, too. Swarming is the reproduction of a honey bee colony, and it occurs when an existing colony subdivides into two colonies. Swarming is essential to the bees’ survival. If the hive becomes overcrowded, resources will be scarce and the colony’s health will begin to decline. So every now and then, a bunch of bees will fly out and find a new place to live.

What Happens During a Swarm

When the colony gets too crowded, the workers will start making preparations to swarm. Worker bees tending to the current queen will feed her less, so she loses some body weight and is able to fly. Workers will also start raising a new queen by feeding a chosen larva large quantities of royal jelly. When the young queen is ready, the swarm begins.

At least half of the colony’s bees will quickly leave the hive, prodding the old queen to fly with them. The queen will land on a structure and workers will immediately surround her, keeping her safe and cool. While most bees tend to their queen, a few scout bees will begin searching for a new place to live. Scouting may only take an hour or so, or it can take days if a suitable location proves difficult to find. In the meantime, the large cluster of bees resting on someone’s mailbox or in a tree may attract quite a bit of attention, especially if the bees have alighted in a busy area.

Once the scout bees have chosen a new home for the colony, the bees will guide their old queen to the location and get her settled. Workers will start building honeycomb and resume their duties raising brood and gathering and storing food. If the swarm occurs in spring, there should be ample time to build the colony’s numbers and food stores before the cold weather arrives. Late seasons swarms don’t bode well for the colony’s survival, as pollen and nectar may be in short supply before they’ve made enough honey to last the long winter months.

Meanwhile, back in the original hive, the workers that stayed behind tend to their new queen. They continue to gather pollen and nectar and to raise new young to rebuild the colony’s numbers before winter.

Are Bee Swarms Dangerous?

No, actually quite the opposite is true! Bees that are swarming have left their hive, and don’t have brood to protect or food stores to defend. Swarming bees tend to be docile, and can be observed safely. Of course, if you are allergic to bee venom, you should steer clear of any bees, swarming or otherwise.

It’s fairly easy for an experienced beekeeper to collect a swarm and move it to a more appropriate location. It’s important to collect the swarm before the bees choose a new home and start producing honeycomb. Once they find a place to live and go to work making honeycomb, they will defend their colony and moving them will be a bigger challenge.


Do Bees Die After Stinging?

The Physiology of Honey Bee Stings and What to Do If You Are Stung

Paul Starosta/Getty Images

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

According to folklore, a bee can only sting you once, and then it dies. ​But is that true? Here’s an examination of the science behind bee stings, what to do if you are stung, and how to avoid stings.

Most Bees Can Sting Again

Bee stings are common and painful, but they are rarely deadly. Fatalities occur each year to 0.03-0.48 people per 1 million, making the probability of dying from a sting by hornets, wasps, or bees about the same as being struck by lightning. Bee stings typically result in brief, localized, limited inflammation and pain around the site.

If you have ever been stung by a bee, you may have taken some satisfaction in believing the bee was on a suicide mission when it stung you. But do bees die after stinging someone? The answer depends on the bee.

Honey bees die after they sting, but other bees, hornets, and wasps can sting you and live to sting another day—and another victim.

Purpose of Venom

The purpose of the bee’s stinger element, called the ovipositor, is to lay eggs in largely unwilling invertebrate hosts. Venom secretions are intended to temporarily or permanently paralyze the host. Among honeybees (Apis genera) and bumble bees (Bombus), only the queen lays eggs; other female bees use their ovipositors as defensive weapons against other insects and people.

But honeycombs, where honey bee larvae are deposited and develop, are often coated with bee venom. Research has revealed that antimicrobial elements in honey bee venom provide newborn bees with protection from diseases due to the «venom bathing» they receive while in the larval stage.

How Stings Work

A sting occurs when a female bee or wasp lands on your skin and uses her ovipositor against you. During the sting, the bee pumps venom into you from attached venom sacs through the needle-like portion of the sting apparatus called the stylus.

The stylus is situated between two lancets with barbs. When a bee or wasp stings you, the lancets become embedded in your skin. As they alternately push and pull the stylus in your flesh, the venom sacs pump venom into your body.

In most bees, including native solitary bees and the social bumblebees, the lancets are fairly smooth. They have tiny barbs, which help the bee grab and hold the victim’s flesh when it stings, but the barbs are easily retractable so the bee can withdraw its stinger. The same is true for wasps. Most bees and wasps can sting you, pull out the stinger, and fly off before you can yell «Ouch!» So solitary bees, bumblebees, and wasps do not die when they sting you.

Why Honey Bees Die After Stinging

In honey bee workers, the stinger has fairly large, backward-facing barbs on the lancets. When the worker bee stings you, these barbs dig into your flesh, making it impossible for the bee to pull its stinger back out.

As the bee flies off, the entire stinging apparatus—venom sacs, lancets, and stylus—is pulled from the bee’s abdomen and left in your skin. The honey bee dies as a result of this abdominal rupture. Because honey bees live in large, social colonies, the group can afford to sacrifice a few members in defense of their hive.

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What to Do for a Honey Bee Sting

If you get stung by a honey bee, remove the stinger as quickly as possible. Even detached from the bee, those venom sacs will continue to pump venom into you: more venom equals more pain.

Traditional sources say you should fetch something flat and stiff, like a credit card, to scrape the stinger off rather than pinching the stinger to remove it. However, unless you happen to be holding a credit card at the time of the sting, it’s better to get it out of your skin quickly. If that takes a pinch, pinch away.

Avoiding Bee Stings

The best course of action is to avoid getting stung by bees. If you’re outside, don’t wear scented lotions or applications (soaps, hairsprays, oils). Don’t wear brightly colored clothing, and by all means, don’t bring along a can of sweet soda or juice. Wear a hat and long pants to avoid looking like a furry predator.

If a bee comes near you, stay calm; don’t swat at it or flail your hands in the air. If it lands on you, gently blow on it to make it fly away. Remember, bees don’t sting for fun. They do so only when they feel threatened or are defending their nests. In most cases, bees will choose flight over fight.


When Will Humanity Finally Die Out?

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This newsletter comes from the future.

Homo sapiens have been around for at least a hundred thousand years, and civilization for maybe a few thousand. These timescales are far longer than your minuscule lifespan, but given our 13 billion-year-old galaxy, they’re shorter than a cosmic heartbeat. And unlike galaxies that require a major wallop to tear apart, humans are fragile things susceptible to disease, famine, war, meteors. really, we’re quite pathetic.

Focusing on today, apocalypse feels inevitable. We’ve reported on Dear Leaders egging each other towards the brink of nuclear war , superbugs becoming impossible to eradicate with antibiotics, and governments preparing for the asteroid that will send us the way of the dinosaurs . As a sort of stress reliever, for this week’s Giz Asks , we asked futurists, anthropologists, science fiction authors and others: When will the powers that be finally rip the bandaid off? When will humanity finally die out?

Anders Sandberg

Senior Research Fellow at The Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University

Currently, the most likely cause of human extinction is a human-caused disaster. While natural risks are still around (meteor impacts, gamma ray bursts, a really nasty pandemic. ) they are less likely than human-caused disasters like nuclear war, bioweapons, or wrecking the civilizational and ecological infrastructure we need to survive. Some emerging technologies like AI, misuse of synthetic biology, or self-replicating machines may also produce exciting new threats. The actual disaster likely to do us in is likely a combination of several kinds: a disaster wipes out most humans, leaves the survivors vulnerable, and then something else makes the situation worse until all are extinct.

The probability of this happening is uncertain. There has been probability estimates ranging from 40-50% over the next century, over an informal poll among researchers suggesting 19% risk, to calculations suggesting 9%. The research community does not know, but the risk does seem to be nonzero and is potentially high enough that we are more likely to be killed by an extinction event than a car crash across our lives. If this is true, then we should expect humanity to die out within a few decades or centuries.

But if we get our act together and reduce the risk, what then? Mammalian species tend to survive 1-2 million years, so were we just a normal species the best bet would be something like 800,000-1.8 million years (we have been around for about 200,000 years already).

H. sapiens isn’t a very normal species, though. We are unusually populous and well dispersed (although also need a lot of food and have a slow generation time). We might be particularly tenacious since we can adapt to nearly any lifestyle. That might mean we are unlikely to go extinct unless there is a mass extinction level not of our own making. Such things happen about once every 100 million years, so that would give us a very long species lifespan.

But we are a technological species too. We are pretty likely to change ourselves before long, and settling space does not appear to be impossible. Even if it doesn’t happen in our lifetime, it seems odd to claim we would not do it if it can be done over spans of millennia or millions of years. Once we are multiplanetary the risk goes down tremendously—now there will be independent, self-sufficient groups of humans spread across vast distances. Once you can thrive on sunlight and asteroid regolith in vacuum (or build habitats for it) you have access to a vast ecological niche that stays stable for billions of years.

In a few billion years the sun will start to become a red giant. That would be the end of Earth-bound humans (although one could get some extra time by moving the planet outward ). But by this point it is rather likely that we will long have moved to other stars, either using slow generation ships or by sending robots to build new civilization or by having become non-organic posthumans ourselves that can handle the trip. Even a slow expansion means the Milky Way gets colonized in some tens of millions of years, and intergalactic settlement seems doable too (except for the accelerating expansion of the universe which will limit the total spread to within 5 gigaparsec—much less if we go slow). That kind of vast spread means that local extinctions are irrelevant: there will always be somebody from elsewhere picking up the torch.

In the truly long run stars burn out and cease to form (in a few trillion years), so that is the end of normal planet-life . We can likely make artificial heating lasting much longer but over time energy will become scarce. Living as software would give us an enormous future in this far, cold era but it is finite: eventually energy runs out. If not, we still have the problem that matter is likely unstable due to proton decay on timescales larger than 10^36 years—one day there is not going to be anything for humans to be made of. That is likely the upper limit.

Another answer is that long before this happens humanity will have changed so much — through random genetic mutations, selection effects, or deliberate engineering — that it will have become new species. So our species might never die but just get a happy ending by becoming something else, hopefully even better.

Owen Gaffney

Anthropocene analyst and science writer at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Future Earth

So, North Korea has just fired a rocket in Japan’s direction and the one person the world would typically turn to for leadership in crisis—the US president—is unhinged, yet, still, I am an optimist. Reports of humanity’s imminent extinction have been greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain.

Spread over all continents we are a pretty resilient lot so it would take a substantial effort to shove us all from this mortal coil in one fell swoop. But there are reasons to proceed through this century with a certain degree of existential caution if we value a global civilization at the very least. If we make it to 2100, then observing aliens might conclude planetary intelligence has emerged on Earth, and give a quiet round of applause.

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The main obstacles in this end-of-the-century dash are formidable: a technologically advanced civilization with the capacity and capriciousness to wipe itself out at the drop of an atomic hat; and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the form of uncomfortably large asteroids, gamma ray bursts, virulent disease and supervolcanic eruptions. The latter would plummet our planet in to a dark volcanic winter bringing havoc to life and a global food system.

On the former—our own agency—I am convinced civilization will do the right thing, after it has exhausted all other alternatives. We live in the Anthropocene. The future is in our hands. The first colony on Mars has moved from an “if” question to a “when” question. Such a move will turn us into a multi-planetary species overnight. This alone will greatly reduce risk of extinction in the medium term, though in the short run a colony will not be self-sustaining and dependent on supplies from Earth.

But here’s the rub. The Anthropocene is characterized by speed, scale, connectivity and surprise. All new technologies, whether it is artificial intelligence or nanotech, have unintended consequences. In the Anthropocene, if unintended consequences scale at a rate greater than one then pretty soon we have a planet-sized problem. Worryingly, innovation is accelerating. Who knows, the last words ever spoken on Earth may well be “I knew this would work!”

In Homo sapiens 200,000-year history, we know about several close shaves with extinction. One came 70,000 years back when the numbers of fertile Homo sapiens dropped to just 10,000. The cause may have been linked to the Toba supervolcanic eruption around this time (74,000 years)—the biggest eruption in 2.5 million years – which would have led to a volcanic winter enveloping the planet, possibly for centuries. Indeed, eruptions continued 15-20,000 years after the first blast according to recent research. However, the supereruption theory for H. sapiens population crash is disputed.

The second close shave is a little more recent and linked to our love of cold beer. In 1928, scientists created “safe” new chemicals for refrigerators and air conditioners—CFCs. But the first C in CFCs is an angry little element, chlorine. Apparently unbeknownst to the scientists and their corporate overlords, these chemicals had a vociferous appetite for ozone in the upper atmosphere. The ozone layer has protected life on Earth for billions of years. Without it, the sun’s radiation would sterilize the surface. Even weakening this shield would lead to crop damage making our survival questionable even if we shoveled on the sun cream. When the ozone hole was discovered in the 1980s nations agreed to outlaw CFCs and disaster was averted.

If we had not noticed the growing hole, or decided to sit on the problem, humans would have run into a catastrophe more serious than warm beer by the end of this century. Worse, if chlorine had been swapped out for its angrier, less stable sister, bromine—an entirely logical choice that would have kept beer just as cool—then H sapiens demise may have been sooner than expected. Bromine’s ozone killing properties make it almost one hundred times more dangerous than chlorine. By the 1970s there could have been a catastrophic ozone hole everywhere all year round according to Paul Crutzen who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on ozone.

New environmental risks have become as urgent. We have run out of all alternatives on greenhouse gas emissions. We must now halve emissions every decade or risk crossing the 2°C threshold. Some argue industrialised societies could hit the levers of Earth so hard we get a runaway climate spinning out of control in to an uninhabitable Venus state. Even with concerted effort, a runaway Venus world is probably beyond even our reach, though without drastic efforts to curb emissions, global temperatures will reach dangerous levels for civilization.

Earth has been much warmer in the deep past and a runaway Venus state did not result, as you may have noticed. Without importing carbon-based fuels from elsewhere in the solar system, fossil fuels will likely run dry before we reach a Venus tipping point. Space mining has become a thing recently, so we cannot entirely rule out this eventuality. Moreover, in the Anthropocene all bets are off: Earth’s current state is unprecedented — this is terra incognita.

The rate of change of the Earth system is now a function of humanity and it is accelerating. The oceans are acidifying at rates not seen for perhaps 300 million years. Currently, carbon dioxide is entering the atmosphere at rates greater than the largest mass extinction in the history of the planet 252 million years ago. As a reminder, the world lost over 80% of marine species and it took 10 million years to recover. But, boy, when it did, it went large—the dinosaurs emerged.

In Earth’s history there have been five mass extinctions. The last, 66 million years ago, ended the reign of the dinosaurs. Earth is currently losing species at mass extinction rates: we are entering a sixth mass extinction and one species is responsible: us. This is important because biodiversity is integral for the stability of Earth’s life support system—the atmosphere, oceans, ice sheets, water cycle and life itself—and the rate of change of this whole system is accelerating (this is the basis of the Anthropocene equation paper we discussed). This has got to concern our global civilization because civilization—farming, cities, democracy, law, technology—emerged due to a relatively stable Earth system. There are two ways the acceleration could halt: 1) we change our ways, or 2) civilization collapses. But if civilization collapsed, that would not necessarily mean that Homo sapiens would go the way of the dinosaurs.

So, while reports of humanity’s imminent extinction have been greatly exaggerated, the Anthropocene is unprecedented in human history so all bets are off. Not least because there may be several unknown unknowns. Be prepared.


Everything you need to know about Bees in Minecraft

Learning everything about the Buzzy Bees update

Story by
Thomas Williamson

I am an avid gamer and game developer, who grew up with games like Money Island and Red Alert. These days, I tend to play very simple browser-based games and crypto games. I am an avid gamer and game developer, who grew up with games like Money Island and Red Alert. These days, I tend to play very simple browser-based games and crypto games.

If ray tracing wasn’t enough to get you excited, the latest update to Minecraft has brought a hive of new bugs to Minecraft, more specifically Bees!

In partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), Mojang added these buzzy little friends into the world of Minecraft. With over 400 million copies sold and 112 million active monthly players as of November 2019, Minecraft boasts one of the most extensive and varied gaming communities.

Bees are a passive mob in the game. They buzz around all day collecting pollen from nearby flowers, and return to their nests to create deliciously sweet honey!


For the most part, Bees are a passive mob that will only attack you when you anger them, and like real bees, when they attack you their stinger will fall out, and they will die, dropping no items in the process, so there is no real reason to be attacking them. If you attack one bee, all nearby bees will also join in, so be careful!

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Non-players can also attack bee’s, and if that happens, the bees will swarm the aggressing mob; upon successfully defeating that mob, the bees will also attack you if still angered – a little known fact that is not covered in the Gamepedia wiki post but was discovered here.

You can tell if a bee is angry by looking at its eyes. Red eyes mean that the bee is aggressive, and you should, therefore, avoid it if you can. There is no real reason to attack the bees.

Graphically and mechanically bees act very similar to bats, in that they don’t fly, they instead hover a few blocks above the ground. Unlike bats, they are considered anthropods, which means enchanting a sword with the bane of anthropods enchantment will give extra damage to bees.

If you get annoyed by your collection of bees always flying off and getting lost, then don’t worry you can use a lead to keep your bees all safely tucked away in your area of the world, or held captive, I guess it depends what way you look at it? However, if the bees are angry at you, they will still be mad when they are leashed and will attack you!


Currently, Bees spawn in Plains, Sunflower Plains, and Flower Forest Biomes, with a 5% chance for a nest to spawn on either birch or oak trees. The nests spawn during world generation and are found naturally throughout your world. If you are loading a pre 1.15 world then you will have to travel to previously unloaded chunks, at the edge of the world for nests to spawn, they won’t generate in already generated chunks!

Bee housing

Bees can be found in the wild, homeless and wandering looking for a nest, or they can occupy a nest that spawns randomly throughout the world. A nest can hold 2 to 3 bees per nest. Once a bee finds a nest they will return there each night or if it starts raining.

Bees stay in their nest for 2400 game ticks, and if you don’t tell the time in ticks (why not!), that’s exactly two minutes before they will leave the nest.

Bees will follow any player that holds a flower, and if you stop, the bee will land on the ground to rest and await your next movement.

Nests and Hives can be easily broken with any tool or with your fist, but it’s most efficient to use an axe. When broken, they will release angry bees that will attack you, so be prepared to fight or run! You can also place a campfire underneath a nest, and the bees won’t swarm you on destruction.

If you want to move the block then you can break both using any tool enchanted with silk touch to carry them to a preferable spot, and any bees that are inside will come along with you, once you place it they will leave, these bees retain their data such as names and health during transport. Breaking a nest or hive with silk touch will still anger nearby bees that aren’t inside the block!

Bees carrying pollen enters the nest or hive, the honey level increases by +1, and when they reach a honey level of 5, the player can harvest it using a glass bottle. Using shears on a honey-filled hive or nest will give a honeycomb, which will be useful for crafting a hive.

Crafting a beehive

A beehive is an artificial way of housing bees. The recipe is relatively simple, all you need is six planks of any wood and three honeycombs.

How does pollination work?

Pollination in Minecraft is an entirely new concept and hasn’t been implemented in Minecraft before. Understandably a few people are a bit confused by how this works.

1) When the day begins, and the rain stops, the bees will leave the hive one by one.

2) Attracted by nearby flowers, the bees will move towards them, and when its found one it’s happy with, the bee will circle the flower bud (collecting the pollen in the process)

3) Visually the bee carrying pollen will have spots on it’s back and will have small pollen particles

4) Bees have a chance to fertilize the following crops during this process. This advances the plant to the next stage of its growth:

  • Wheat
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beetroots
  • Melon
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Berry Bushes

Each bee can fertilize up to ten crops each time they carry pollen.

How to harvest honey and honeycomb

When a hive is ready to harvest, honey will drip from the hive. You can collect this sweet reward in two ways. The first way is to use shears on the block to get three honeycombs. The second way is to use a glass bottle to harvest the honey directly. However, if you do either of these, the bees will become aggressive.

You can stop the bees from becoming aggressive by putting a campfire directly under the hive or within five blocks with no other blocks in between. You can also use fire directly underneath the hive.

Breeding bees in Minecraft

Like every other mob in Minecraft, bees require an item to be fed to them to make them breed. In this instance, they blooming love flowers (yes, I made a flower joke). Giving two bees flowers will create a baby bee and provide some cool experience points.

The breeding cooldown for bees is five minutes. It takes twenty minutes for the baby bee to grow up (one in-game day). You can speed this up by giving the baby bee flowers, which individually provides a -10% reduction time.

You can use any flower that is either one or two blocks high to breed the bees, including a wither rose without any adverse effect given to the bee.

New blocks and items

This update adds a variety of new items, each with their unique effects.

Honey Bottle – are craftable into sugar, or can be drunk for three hunger + 2.4 saturation, and it removes poison effects.

Honey Blocks – can be crafted from 4 bottles of honey. However, they don’t carry Redstone signals. When moved by a piston, the block on top of the Honey Block will be moved with it and can push and pull all adjacent blocks (up to twelve at a time), except slime and glazed terracotta blocks (it will also ignore immobile blocks like obsidian and bedrock).

Honey blocks will also slow down the movement speed of entities and prevent jumping. This effect transfers through; carpets, bottom-half slabs, and daylight detectors. Falling onto a Honey Block reduces fall damage by 80%.

You cannot place pressure pads or ladders onto Honey Blocks.

If you go to the edge of a Honey Block, you can jump at the regular height rather than the reduced jump height.

Sources for this post

A big thank you to the guys over at NoobForce for allowing me to use their video and for the great information provided in their bee article.

All other information was curated from various Gamepedia articles.

Published January 31, 2020 — 11:13 UTC

Thomas Williamson

January 31, 2020 — 11:13 UTC

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