The queen bee lays up to about 1000 eggs per day over her 3 year (average) lifespan.
Once she dies or becomes less productive, worker bees must produce another queen.
Only a few days old, the new virgin queen will leave the hive to mate in-flight with as many as 20 drones.
This natural process ensures the survival of the fittest, as only the strongest, fastest drones can catch and mate with the queen. As such, only the strongest genes are passed to the next generation.
After this initial flight, the new queen bee never leaves the hive again… unless the bees outgrow their hive and decide they need to divide themselves into two separate colonies. When her majesty does leave the hive for this purpose, she takes about 50% to 60% of her worker bees with her.
Depending on the colony, that could mean anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of bees leaving the original hive.
Often times, the bees will swarm to a nearby tree for some time, as they scout for a suitable new location to call home.
Folks can really freak out at the site of a huge bee swarm, but it’s an entirely natural process that is critical for sustainably growing the bee population.