Swarms in 2022-23
In June 2022, the destructive Varroa Mite was detected in the Port of Newcastle and has subsequently spread throughout Newcastle and Lower Hunter region and to some locations across the Central Coast. The Varroa Mite has potentially devastating impacts on Australia’s honey bees and related industries (For more information click here).
Due to the discovery of the Varroa Mite, the Department of Primary Industries has significantly restricted the activities of Beekeepers with regards to the collection of swarms. Should you have a swarm in your area, please contact the DPI Emergency Response Hotline on 1800 084 811 and report the swarm and its location. They will advise you as to your options for dealing with the swarm.
What to do if you come across a swarm of bees
Why do bees swarm?
Swarming is the natural method of colony reproduction
What causes a colony of bees to swarm?
Once the weather starts to warm up in late winter and early spring the queen bee will start laying anything up to 2000 eggs per day every day, 21 days after an egg is laid a new bee will hatch.
What happens in a strong colony is they outgrow the space it currently occupies whether that be a hollow tree, wall cavity in a house or a hive. Instead of the whole colony up and moving into a bigger home they will rear themselves a new queen and approximately half the bees and usually the old queen will leave the colony (called swarming) in one mass of bees and settle in a tree, a letter box, on a fence or anywhere the queen decides to land, the bees will then cluster around the queen and this is what produces the classic football shaped swarm of bees.
Are swarms dangerous?
If left alone bees are actually quite docile when in swarm mode and there are two main reasons for this.
They do not have a home to protect and are more focused on finding a new home
Before they leave the hive they swarmed from they will gorge themselves with honey which makes it difficult for them to sting.
What to do if you come across a swarm?
If there are masses of bees in still flying around in the air walk away from the general area as quickly as possible. There is the possibility of getting stung through a bee getting stuck in your hair. Within 30 min or so (often quicker) the queen will land and all the bees in the air will cluster around her in a clump
If the bees have already settled in a clump and are hanging off a branch or a fence etc then just leave them alone.
- Do not Hose them
- Do not throw things at them
- Do not try and smoke them or burn something nearby to make them move
- Do not spray them with insecticide in an attempt to kill them
Just leave them alone and they will not worry you, however a good idea is to take a couple of photos with your phone from a safe distance as the swarm collector will need these.
Bee’s flying in and out of a small opening in a wall etc is not a swarm, there is most likely a colony of bees in the wall and this is an entirely different situation to a swarm.
What you need to do now is have a look at the FAQ’s below as when you ring someone they will most likely ask the following questions:
- Where is the swarm located (fence, tree, etc)?
- Is the swarm accessible from the ground?
- Is the swarm on your property, a neighbour’s property or public land?
- Approximately how big is the swarm (use a Tennis ball, Football or 10 litre Bucket as a guide) ?
- How long has it been there?
- Can you text them a photo or two of the swarm?
- Is anyone in your household highly allergic to bee stings (anaphylactic)?
This will give the swarm collector and idea of what gear to bring and whether they will need an assistant as well.
Please be prepared for these questions before you ring a swarm collector
Now go to our Swarm Collectors page and ring whoever is the closest to your location, if they do not answer then ring the next closest person and so on.
What happens next?
Providing the swarm is accessible the Beekeeper will come out and put the swarm in a hive and probably leave it there until dark, bees are like chooks and come back to their home once it’s dark.
The beekeeper may charge a small fee for this service depending on the size of the swarm and it’s accessibility etc and this cost is entirely between you and the beekeeper, however it will be far less than the $200.00 + dollars a pest controller will charge and killing swarms of bees is a horrible thing to do as they are just trying to reproduce.
Thank you from the bees for taking the time to read this, they need all the help they can get.
If you need a swarm to be collected please go to this link https://www.beekeepers.asn.au/swarms