Swarms of bees have been spotted in public parks, schools and backyards across Sydney, and experts say the warm weather is to blame.
“[During spring] colonies get bigger and bigger until they outgrow their hive [or] nest space. At that point the colony makes new [queen bees]. [The old queen] leaves to start her own colony, taking a good portion of the worker bees from the original hive with her. This is the swarming you see; they are looking for a new nest site,” says Dr Laura Brettell, a bee disease ecologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the Western Sydney University.
And compared to Sydney renters, wandering bees have higher chances of finding new homes quickly.
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The bees first travel about 100 metres from their former homes and settle temporarily in a convenient location, commonly a tree branch or a house awning. The worker bees swarm around the pop-up home, while scout bees search further afield to find a permanent place to resettle.
Once the reconnaissance has finished, the scout bees return and report to the group on the find by performing a “waggle dance”. The longer and more vigorous the dance, the more attractive the scout bees have deemed the new site.
Vicky Brown, a beekeeper at The Urban Beehive, says the organisation, which introduces beekeeping to city rooftops and community gardens, has received hundreds of calls in the past couple of weeks from concerned Sydneysiders. Brown says while bee swarms may appear menacing to some residents, the creatures are at their most docile when in this state.
“A lot of people are scared of swarms, but … it’s the least likely time you’ll be attacked,” she told Broadsheet.
But Brown does warn against provoking the insects by interfering with the swarm or spraying it with fly spray, which will only aggravate the bees. She also cautions against spraying them with water. “Once they’re wet, they can’t fly. You’ll end up with a lot of soggy bees that won’t leave you at all,” she says.
Concerned residents should contact a local beekeeper that will safely collect the bees in a bee box and then rehome them in a beehive.
For more information, or to find a local beekeeper, visit the Amateur Beekeepers Association NSW.