A photo from last year's competition - Swarm of Bees by Pat Moran.
A photo from last year's competition - Swarm of Bees by Pat Moran.

SWARM CATCHERS: Who to call for 'homeless' bees

ACROSS the Northern Rivers volunteer swarm catchers are at the ready to rescue homeless honey bees.

Local beekeepers are on call to provide a community service - catching and removing bee swarms that have settled in awkward places. Many of the volunteers have years of experience, catching and rehousing swarms each season. The best part: it's now quick and easy for the public to locate their nearest beekeeper who catches swarms.

A new online swarm directory has been launched at the Amateur Beekeepers Association website, beekeepers.asn.au/swarms. You simply type in the postcode where the swarm of bees has been discovered. The directory gives the contact details of beekeepers in the area who will collect swarms - either for free or for a small charge.

As the days lengthen and weather warms, honey bees (Apis mellifera) start preparing for the season ahead. Part of that preparation involves ensuring the colony has plenty of space inside its hive (man-made) or hollow (natural) so it can build up numbers and stash plenty of food - honey and pollen. Often that means half of the colony will decide, along with its queen, to find a new home - and leave the old home so the remaining bees can thrive. That mass of relocating bees is a swarm.

"It's the natural way honey bee colonies reproduce," explains Northern Rivers Amateur Beekeepers Association President, Rober Stone. "And it also means some spectacular sights of bees on the wing, and clustering in mass numbers as scout bees go looking for a suitable new home."

But if the bees settle somewhere that alarms the people nearby - maybe on a backyard post, or a roadside tree - you may want help to move them along. "By far the best option, is to call in a beekeeper who can remove the bees safely," says Robert. "A beekeeper can usually do that without harming the bees. Bees provide essential pollination services for our food supply, flowers and local plants. So we really need to treat them with respect."

The Northern Rivers Amateur Beekeepers Association (NRABA) advises members of the public not to try to dislodge a swarm themselves nor spray it with anything -- swarming bees are normally docile but will sting if upset.

The Northern Rivers ABA is one of 20 clubs across the state affiliated with the Amateur Beekeepers Association NSW.

The Northern Rivers Amateur Beekeeepers Association (NRABA) covers from Yamba to Tabulam past Kyogle and up along the coast to the Qld boarder. The club meets on the last Sunday of the Month at different locations across the region. Contact the club Secretary on (02) 6624 3317 for monthly meeting details or visit the ABA website.



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