Bee swarms on campus

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and the bees are buzzing – spring is almost upon us. This is a wonderful time of year in Canberra; it is also the time when bees might decide to leave a hive en masse in a process called swarming.

The sight of swarming bees can cause alarm but is nothing to be too concerned about. Rather than the popular imagery depicting killer bees on the attack, swarming is a very natural process and amazing part of the life cycle of honey bees.

Beeswarm“The sight of swarming bees can cause alarm but is nothing to be too concerned about.”

As we move towards spring and as the weather warms a bee colony becomes more active. Queen bees begin to produce more workers in preparation for the upcoming season. As a result bees sometimes find their hive becoming overcrowded and so will start to raise a new queen. Before the new queen emerges, the old queen takes off with part of the colony to establish a new colony in another site. This is what we witness when we see bees swarming.

Once bees leave the hive they generally form a cluster while they make their decision about where to begin their new home. They are usually not aggressive at this stage of their life cycle unless disturbed or provoked.

There are at least nine feral bee colonies that have made their homes in trees around the grounds of the ANU. Each year one or more of these colonies is likely to swarm. This year the ANU Apiculture Society hopes to collect a swarm on campus and re-home it in a conventional hive. An opportunity to experience a swarm up close is a chance to learn more about these amazing creatures.

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