Huddersfield beekeepers are ready to take the sting out of summer.
Last year “swarm collectors” from Huddersfield and District Beekeepers Association (HDBKA) received 200 calls from members of the public to remove bees that had settled in places such as trees, the sides of buildings and inside chimneys.
Andy Caveney, of HDBKA, said: “On an all too rare sultry, but sunny day in late spring or early summer, you may be lucky enough to witness the incredible sight of a honey bee swarm. At first you may hear a deep resonating humming sound, like a distant World War II bomber as 20,000 black dots swirl against the bright blue sky.
“As a colony grows inside a hive, the bees can easily fill the available space. Their method of reproduction is to make a new queen. The old queen is then encouraged and cajoled by her thousands of daughters to fly off to find pastures new, with up to half of the colony swarming with her. This is perfectly natural behaviour for bees both in the wild and in the beekeepers’ apiary.”
Andy said a swarm might look alarming but added: “Shortly before they swarm, they gorge themselves on honey. They are normally content and well-behaved.”
He said HDBKA members had been trained to safely collect and re-home swarming bees. “The secret is to collect the queen and the rest will follow. Experience is needed to identify whether the bees are actually honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees or indeed wasps. Ninety per cent of all calls last year were actually bumble bees.”
After collection, the swarm are quarantined and checked to see they are healthy before being re-housed in a hive.
HDBKA regularly holds practical demonstrations on beekeeping, courses and workshops on honey extraction and making candles and beauty products form beeswax at Kirklees College’s animal husbandry centre at Taylor Hill.
Said Andy: “Beekeeping is growing. We have a membership of about 100, half of whom have kept bees for four years or less. It’s not something you can learn from books or YouTube videos. We run a 10-week beginners’ course every year because beekeeping is quite a tricky thing to do.”
He said: “Bees are wonderful little creatures that pollinate our plants, trees and agricultural crops and provide us with delicious sweet honey. So if you spot a swarm of bees, please do not destroy them – they are a protected species. Call the HDBKA Swarm Hotline on 07379 456371.”