Colony fissioning in honey bees: size and significance of the swarm fraction Academic Article uri icon


  • During colony founding in honey bees, a portion of a colony's workforce (the "swarm fraction") departs with the old mother queen in a swarm while the remaining workforce stays with a new daughter queen in the parental nest. There is little quantitative information about swarm fraction size and about how swarm fraction size affects the growth and survival of mother-queen and daughter-queen colonies. We measured (a) the swarm fraction in naturally fissioning honey bee colonies, (b) the growth and survival of mother-queen colonies as a function of swarm size, and (c) the growth and survival of mother-queen and daughter-queen colonies as a function of the swarm fraction. We found an average swarm fraction of 0. 75. We also found a significant positive effect of swarm size and swarm fraction on the growth (i. e., comb built, brood produced, food stored, and weight gained) and the survival of mother-queen colonies. We found no effect of swarm fraction on the survival of daughter-queen colonies. Evidently, a honey bee colony must devote a large majority of its workforce to a swarm so that the mother-queen colony can grow sufficiently rapidly to survive its first winter. 2012 International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI).

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Rangel, J., & Seeley, T. D.

citation count

  • 39

complete list of authors

  • Rangel, J||Seeley, TD

publication date

  • November 2012