Who you gonna call?
A Kaiti resident was alarmed to see a swarm of bees humming in a tree by her house but was more concerned for the honey producers' and crop pollinators' well-being.
“I thought if they are honey bees they are important for life.”
She contacted a beekeeper but a little later the cloud of bees disappeared from her tree.
While it is unusual at this time of year for bees to swarm, they probably did so because the hive had become over-populated and congested, says Gisborne beekeeper, Barry Foster.
Along with population size, the perennial issue of storage is a significant factor.
“At this time of year, the bees have probably brought in a lot of nectar from various sources. They start to put the nectar into cells in the brood nest which is where the queen goes to lay eggs. Queens need cells to lay eggs. If there is nectar in there she can't do that. The stored nectar impinges on her brood space.”
Bees tend to swarm to a bush or tree close to the hives but will be looking for something more permanent, says Mr Foster
“They are like human society. The natural progression is for them to go forth and multiply. It is hard-wired into everything to procreate and spread.”
The old queen leaves when the new queen emerges from the cells.
“Coming up to the emergence of the new queen bee, the other bees would know about that. The old queen will take off.
If the old queen remains, the two monarchs usually fight it out but sometimes a mother-daughter relationship develops.
If residents find a bee swarm on their property they can contact Citizen's Advice who can put them in touch with a beekeeper experienced in relocating swarms.
One technique a beekeeper might use is to place a box under the newly inhabited tree or shrub and shake the branches so the bees drop into the box. If the beekeeper manages to get the queen bee and a few other bees into the box, they release a pheromone that says “we're here, come here”, says Mr Foster.
Mr Foster sees parallels between bee colony behaviour and human instinct.
“If we get 50 million people on the planet there will be a swarm to Mars or somewhere like that.”