WHAT DO I DO IF I SEE A SWARM?
Four things I was told about swarms have stopped me panicking about them, hopefully it’ll have the same effect on you…
1. First of all you need to think of the colony as being the 'living animal' rather than the individual bee. Each bee’s purpose in life is to ensure the health, growth and reproduction of the colony they were born in to, which means that a colony needs to reproduce if honeybee populations are increase. Swarming is their way of reproducing and totally natural, in fact every colony will want to do it, it’s not a bad thing.
2. Secondly, a swarm is made up of the Queen bee and half the bees. She swarms with the older bees who have been out foraging to get nectar and pollen so know the area well and are good at flying and finding thing.
Before they all take flight in a great cloud of buzzing activity they eat as much of the honey as they can to keep them going until they’ve established a new home. This is important because it means their tummies are so full of honey they can’t bend their abdomens enough to sting!! Though I’ve not checked that out in practice…
3. Thirdly, if you feel you’re caught in a cloud of bees and it feels like they’re keen on you, that’s not really true – they’re trying to navigate and get their bearings for a good place to land and cluster around the Queen to keep her safe while some of them go out looking for a suitable home over the next day or so.
They fly around you because you’ll be a relatively tall landmark for them to use, so the trick is to stand against something taller like a tree or a wall. Just like I'm doing, though there's not a swarm in sight so smiling more than I would be in a real swarm!
4. Last but not least, honey bees will only use their sting in defence of their colony, and they give their life for it when they do as the sting takes most of them with it – not nice for you or them!
When they’re swarming they have no colony to defend so no need to sting unless you swat them, panic, tread on them etc.
Once you have one sting a pheromone is released that attracts other bees to it, effectively telling them all that there’s trouble here. So if you do get stung, get away as quickly as you can, cover the area with clothes or mask the smell with something. Dunking under water works too!