Preventing Native Bee Swarms
A guide to keeping bees happy.
Guest post written by Dean Haley
Preventing native bee swarms…. My recent post on fighting swarms showed one of my boxes on my front patio. This box was attacked by hockingsi bees, I think from my neighbors place across the street.
In general though I don’t have fighting amongst my own bees and would like to share a few thoughts on keeping bees happy and fight free.
A quick google search of stingless bees in Africa, South America or Asia will show bee boxes lined up in very close proximity. There may only be a few centimetres between the boxes. In Australia though, we are advised to keep a 10 metre spacing between boxes or they might fight. I think that with proper care our bees can be kept in close proximity. I have done so for years.
Preventing Native Bee Swarms tips.
This picture shows some of my bee hives containing carbonaria bees. The bees are unrelated and have come from different places. Due to limited space when I was living in a unit complex, I kept 8 beehives on a rack of shelves with only a few centimetres space between them. These days I can pick up 2 of these boxes and swap their position in the shelves. Bees will return to the wrong box and still they don’t fight. So what’s going on?
I believe that having carbonaria boxes in very close proximity leads to all the boxes sharing each others smell. They are all soaking in the pheromone smell of all the queens. In effect they get used to each other and become friends.
When I introduce a new box to the group, I will close all the existing boxes entrances the night before with gauze or tissue paper. I then place my new box in the group and they have a nighttime to learn the new smell. The next morning the new bees will do their orientation flight. With the neighboring boxes shut, they don’t accidentally enter the wrong entrance and spark a defensive swarm. After 2 or 3 hours the new box will be functioning normally with no lost bees hanging around the neighbors doors. At this time I remove the gauze or tissue paper and don’t have fights.
This is great news for families wishing to keep more than one or two boxes in the back yard or patio. I personally think that a good number to keep is five to ten boxes. The bees do very well and never seem to run out of flowers. Having this many boxes is great fun, and you can get enough honey to really enjoy and some surplus to give away to friends.
Happy bee keeping!
Links about native bee swarms
Aussiebee- Preventing native bee swarms
I live in Mossman FNQ and I have a group of native stingless bees that have been fighting now for nearly 2 weeks. On our verandah which is about 11 metres long, we have three individual hives contained within the walls of the building. Over the past 2 weeks hundreds of bees have been fighting on a small table which is on the edge of the verandah, 3 metres from one hive on the house wall and about 6 to 10 metres from the other two hives. Is there anything I can do or do I just let it run it’s course. There are hundreds of dead bees each day and the table is almost completely covered in bees fighting, while hundreds more fly around the area. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Hi there and thanks for stopping by. I believe your bees maybe Tetragonula clypearis due to your position and where they have chosen to build their nest. Are they small bees?
You attacking swarm may not be coming from one of the hives in your yard but another. How to find this out is to block up the two hives at night, that aren’t under attack and observe for a few days (don’t worry the bees will be fine inside their nest for a few days). If the fight stops and no bees are locking together (a defensive swarm will probably be present still) then unblock one. If no fight unblock the other. If either one triggers the fight you know where they are invading from.
Now I had a chat to Dean and we both agree that your table is what the bees have decided to scent mark as their fighting area. Scent markings can be seen as tiny blobs or marks that carry a particular smell. Have a close look at the table and you may see them. These marks can help a swarm to continue for long periods of time.
Stopping a swarm can be difficult but sometimes it can be done. I would remove the table from the area and clean any handrails or things that are close with metho. You can then wipe the area with eucalyptus oil (use lightly it’s a natural insecticide) to deter them from fighting in that zone. Block the hive that is under attack and make sure no bees can escape. Use the metho rag to wipe the smells on an empty box if you have one and place it in front of the colony that was under attack.
You may see them check the box out and lose interest or maybe move in. Either way it should help. The hive in the wall can spend weeks in there without a worry so wait until you see the attacking swarm subside before moving your scent marked box.
Let me know what happens or what you choose to do.
Ok, lets help a fellow NQLDer.
I am willing to bet its T. hockingsi bees you have. These bees can be very aggressive with others. I always tell people with these bees to space them well appart, and even better have each hive entrance a different direction. That way rach hive has a different flight path to the hive, so less chance they will interact.
Your fighting swarms are caused by numerous bees going the wrong flight path to the wrong hive, causing the fight. The table seems to be the centre of the territory where the flight paths merge. What you can do immediately is move two hive to a mates (more than 1 km away ) to stop the fighting. Then look at the placement of the two hives to new locations or orientation that will stop this interaction in a weeks time.
OK lets assume a second thing. If the bees are in the walls, and cant be moved, you need then to separate the flight paths so there is less interaction. So in this case bung up the entrance of two hives, and then use a divider to force the bees to use a separate flight path. Then pick the next hive for the next day that again a divider to force the bees to a new flight path. The third day open the last entrance.
Now long term, your going to have to either let them fight it out, as its natures way, OR your going to have to relocate one or two of the hives. Now that’s an essay in itself, so we need to see what your situation is before we go any further