Once a swarm of bees has arrived in their new hive, they immediately set to work building wax comb. Bees need around 8lb of honey to produce 1lb of wax comb, so it is imperative that a large enough group survives the swarming process.
There also needs to be enough flowering plants over the coming weeks to assist with providing nectar for honey production.
As soon as enough wax cells are produced, the queen can start laying eggs and building up her colony of workers and drones.
Larvae in the nest
In a ‘Prime Swarm,’ it is the old queen of a colony who has left the hive. She takes most of the foraging bees with her, totalling 10-30,000 bees. This queen will be able to start laying eggs straight away, and so they have the best chance of survival.
The colony left behind has to rear a new queen, and so the remaining workers will have been preparing an egg in a very specific way. Preparation entails feeding the larvae royal jelly and building an extended wax cup for her more substantial body. When she hatches, she has to take care of the bees in her charge but cannot lay eggs until she becomes fertilised.
A mating flight is a risky business. Queens present a tasty snack for a bird, so guard bees escort her to an area where drones from colonies far and wide can be found. She will mate with between 15 and 48 males, each plunging to their death as soon as it is over.
Male drones don't survive the mating flight
This single ‘grand day out’ will give her enough sperm to fertilise between 1500 and 2000 eggs each day of her laying life.