A beekeeper has put his hand into a swarm of hundreds of bees to urge people to think twice about killing the flying insects.
Auckland beekeeper Dave Grant is on a mission to save bees from extermination.
He has posted a video on Facebook of himself tucking his hand into a hive to demonstrate how docile the insects can be and to encourage people not to be afraid of swarms.
“Under certain conditions, bees are very docile and you can put your hand into the swarm. When bees are swarming, they don’t want to sting you. They’re not aggressive, they’re pretty much the opposite.”
Grant is one of between 20 and 30 Auckland beekeepers who form Bee Swarm, which collects up to 120 swarms from around the city each month for free.
“We recognised about three years ago that swarms are causing a problem. It got out of control really quickly because there are so many swarms.”
Swarms can settle at people’s homes, such as on tree branches and buildings.
“If you’ve got a swarm of bees there, we’d rather go and collect it than someone spray fly spray on them.”
Grant is a tutor at a bee course in Auckland and the swarms go to his new beekeepers or join existing hives.
“It’s a win, win all around. We’re saving those bees, they are not going to die and we give them to new beekeepers.”
Unlike wasps, bees don’t tend to sting humans randomly, Grant said.
“When I get stung, it’s always my own fault. I’ve always done something silly. In all my years, I’ve never been stung just standing there.”
While putting your hand inside a bee swarm may already be a step too far for many, Grant recommends walking into the middle of a flying swarm.
“One of the most exciting things you can ever do is walk into the middle of a bee swarm. The bees won’t land on you or touch you because they don’t want to land.
“The sound is incredible and the wind on your face, because they are coming so close. It is one of life’s very rare experiences. It would be like a parachute jump.”
Bees typically swarm between October and December in New Zealand.
A natural event in the life cycle of the colony, bees swarm when bee numbers are rapidly growing and they need to increase the number of hives.
They make several “queen cells” that house new queen bees, while the existing queen bee leaves the hive and takes around half the colony with her.
The swarm then looks for somewhere to establish a new hive, this could be on a tree branch, a hole in the wall or a roof cavity.
Back at the original hive, a new queen hatches and kills the remaining queens before going on a number of “mating flights”. She then returns to the hive and becomes the new queen.
Aucklanders who find a bee swarm on their property should take a photo and contact Bee Swarm on 027 479 2767.
Grant discourages anyone who is allergic from getting too close to bees.
Information on the Ministry of Health’s website says most bee stings itch for one to two days and swelling may last a week.
Stings are a minor irritation for most people but anyone who develops symptoms of a serious allergic reaction or anaphylaxis should call 111, it says.
Symptoms include swelling around the lips and eyes, rapid development of a rash and shortness of breath.
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