Swarm of bees and natural selection

The swarm of bees is the natural form of honeybee reproduction. The colony splits. May and June are usually the months for this natural spectacle. Just before a new queen hatches to take over the existing beehive, the old queen leaves with about half of the colony and with honey supplies for the next few days. The swarm of bees collects in a cluster near the hive and usually stays there for one night. The next morning the swarm starts moving towards the new home. The honeycomb construction in the new home will begin immediately. The bees have to complete the honeycomb construction until winter. They have to coat the walls with propolis and have to create enough honey reserves for the winter.

Swarm of bees
Swarm of bees

Natural selection

By allowing swarms of bees, the natural selection finds its way back to beekeeping. Nature determines which characteristics prevail and which ones do not. In the long term, this is the only chance of adaptation between host and parasite. Natural selection is the key to such an adaptation, as we know it from various studies. “One does not have to have a purely materialistic conception of evolution to accept that any organism has to adapt to the conditions in which it finds itself, or become extinct…”, writes David Heaf in his article “Dealing with Varroa: natural selection or artificial selection?“. The content of this quote should actually be a consensus and does not require further discussion. This makes it all the more incomprehensible that natural selection has been almost eliminated in recent decades and that swarming has only marginally taken place. Despite the appearance of the aggressive parasite Varroa, the artificial selection was intensively used and the natural selection was largely prevented.

But it is not only the prevention of natural selection that should be problematic for bee health in the long term. The artificial selection itself also has disadvantages. The breeding criteria of beekeepers are not only not in the bee’s interest, they are probably even contrary to their interests. For example, it can be assumed that breeding for maximum honey production ties up the working time of bees excessively. They may lack valuable time for important tasks such as applying propolis and grooming.

The swarm of bees as a curing process

Until the first brood combs go into operation in the new home and the first brood grows, there is a natural breeding break. Also in the colony left there is a breeding break, because the young queen must go first on wedding flight. Since the Varroa mite multiplies in the brood cells of the bees, it also comes to a forced pause in her reproduction. The breeding break is now also understood as a natural fight against the Varroa mite.