Be cal­mand col­lected - like the bees

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN WIL­LIAMS

It’s bee swarm sea­son so be aware and be at the ready.

The nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non where honey bees move from their hives and look for a new home can re­sult in up to 30,000 of them de­scend­ing on trees and build­ings in sub­ur­ban back yards.

As fright­en­ing as this might seem, the word from the ex­perts re­mains the same: stay calm, leave them alone and call a lo­cal bee­keeper to have them re­moved.

From spring, colonies of honey bees, old queen bee and all, will be on the move and look­ing for a new home.

‘‘Through to De­cem­ber, with the warmer weather is when they swarm,’’ vet­eran Up­per Hutt bee­keeper Ivan Ped­er­sen said. ‘‘It is their way of of sur­viv­ing, di­vid­ing the colony.’’

His ad­vice for any­one dis­cov­er­ing a swarm is sim­ple. ‘‘Don’t panic, leave them alone. If they are just hang­ing from a tree, they are rest­ing. They are not go­ing to stay, they are in­tent on find­ing a new home.’’

The swarm will be fol­low­ing a queen bee to set up a new hive sev­eral kilo­me­tres from their pre­vi­ous home. They of­ten set­tle in a rel­a­tively open lo­ca­tion for a rest, mostly overnight, be­fore car­ry­ing on.

‘‘They are highly or­gan­ised, like a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion,’’ Ped­er­sen said.

They are col­lec­tively calm when trav­el­ling as they do not have a hive to pro­tect.

‘‘I can col­lect them with­out a bee suit, with­out gloves even.’’

For years Ped­er­sen has col­lected swarms. For him they are a re­source and any­thing but a pest.

In an av­er­age sea­son he would ex­pect to re­move 25 swarms from the wider Up­per Hutt area, tak­ing them to his pre­pared hives.

‘‘I get calls from the coun­cil, Cit­i­zens Ad­vice and the odd one from the po­lice, plus there’s al­ways word-of-mouth,’’ the 84-year-old said.

‘‘But that has gone down in the last few years be­cause of the var­roa mite.’’ The par­a­site at­tacks honey bees and their brood, weak­en­ing the bees and short­en­ing their life.

Ped­er­sen has 60 hives in sev­eral lo­ca­tions but has had up to 200 in pre­vi­ous sea­sons. While lo­cal au­thor­i­ties will or­gan­ise the re­moval of swarms in pub­lic ar­eas, on pri­vate prop­erty re­moval is the owner’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Raised in Den­mark on a

WHATTODO

Stay calm, leave the the swarm alone and call a bee­keeper to have them re­moved.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­tieswill have con­tact num­bers for lo­cal bee­keep­ers who will col­lect the bees at no cost.

Never try to de­stroy a swar­mor a hive.

Do not throw­sticks, rocks or other items at the swarm.

Spray­ing with awa­ter hose is in­ef­fec­tive while fly spray will make bees an­gry and ag­gres­sive.

Never use in­flammables, of any kind, on a swar­mor hive. sub­sis­tence farm where his fa­ther kept bees, Ped­er­sen’s in­ter­est was formed as a young­ster.

He has worked with the in­sects for decades and set up his Kaitoke Api­aries busi­ness which pro­duces liq­uid honey.

Each win­ter Ped­er­sen trav­els back to Den­mark and Ice­land for a cou­ple of months. He works with lo­cal bee­keeper or­gan­i­sa­tions and es­capes the worse of the Kiwi win­ter.

‘‘It works well, a no-win­ters sys­tem,’’ the self-trained bee­keeper said.

Bee wor­ries? City coun­cils will sup­ply con­tact num­bers for bee­keep­ers who will re­move swarms for free or call Ivan Ped­er­sen on 526 9180

PHOTO: COLIN WIL­LIAMS/STUFF

Long time Up­per Hutt bee­keeper Ivan Ped­er­sen is of­ten called out to re­home swarms.

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