Guest post written by- Dean Haley
Fighting swarms occur with our Tetragonula hockingsi and Tetragonula carbonaria bees. These fighting swarms occur with another colony of the same species, or sometimes between different species (e.g. hockingsi attacking carbonaria or vice versa).
It is widely believed that the fighting of our Tetragonula bees is the most fearsome in the world. Many thousands of dead bees can result!
There’s lots we don’t know about this behaviour, but we do know a couple of things;
1. If enough strange bees enter a hive in a short period of time, the hive will consider itself under attack and send out many thousands of bees as a defensive swarm. These defense swarms can occur even if the hive is not actually under attack, for example if some bees get lost and try to enter the wrong hive.
2. If there is really an attacking colony, they will try to take over the hive, kill the queen and put there own queen in there instead.
The list of things we don’t know about fighting swarms is far more extensive;
Why do they attack with such a loss of life? (Surely it would be easier to establish a new colony from scratch) Is it territorial? Are closely related hives ever attacked? Are all resident workers put to the sword, or do they become slaves to the new masters?
Matt Keir is a PhD student currently studying these questions and many more. He needs fighting swarms to study within the Brisbane area. If you have a fighting swarm and would like to participate please contact him by email at email@example.com
Matt has also expressed a keen interest in fights in natural bush settings.
More about Fighting bee swarms
All pictures taken by Dean Haley