Bees in a wall give us a good picture of the hives bees will create if left to their own devices. When bees want to expand, they don’t go upwards. They go sideways and down.
I have been assured that bees in walls do in fact swarm. However, it is indisputable that they create huge colonies and impressive comb structures notwithstanding.
The first axiom of my totally unscientific theory is that the nature of Langstroth hives causes bees to swarm before they would swarm in the wild.
The Langstroth hive is designed for the convenience of the beekeeper, not the bees. Bees are forced to build comb in the size and shape of the frame, not the way they would build comb in nature.
Conventional wisdom dictates that the bees must draw out comb in most of the frames before the next box of frames is placed on top. Things are fine as long as the colony is relatively small. That may be the reason swarms are rarely a problem in the first year.
But there’s a point when the colony is poised to expand exponentially. This is usually in the Spring of the second or third year.
The second axiom of my totally unscientific theory is that bees know when their colony is going to explode long before we do. As far as the bees know, there’s not enough room in the hive to contain the new bees and never will be. So swarm preparations begin.
If my theory is correct, what should we do? Start adding extra room now, when breeding is just beginning. I’m going to test my theory this Spring and report back on the results.