SWARMS of honey bees have been spotted all over south Essex, one causing a particular stir last week when it massed on a bicycle chained up at Victoria Circus.

What happened next showed just how little many of us understand about these important creatures and how to deal with swarming bees.

The bees drew a fascinated crowd around the bike for about five hours, before, at about 7pm witnesses saw a teenaged girlspray the swarm with insecticide, killing almost all the bees.

For those who understand bees and their role in our country’s eco-system and prosperity, such attacks on an alreadydwindling bee population are worrying.

Twice last year, Leigh beekeeper Ann Cushion was called to rescue swarms from bushes in Victoria Avenue.

She says killing the Victoria Circus bees was an unnecessary act, since bees are at their most docile and “happy” when swarming, so pose very little threat to people.

She explained: “This is the time of year when bees will naturally decide to swarm out of the beehive. They’re reproducing, which also means they are a healthy colony. In this day and age, that’s a very good thing, as bees are a threatened species.

“What happens is when the hive becomes congested, the bees decide maybe a third will move on to a new site with the old queen. A queen cell is then made in the old colony from which a new queen can hatch.

“They then start to look for a new home, but the chances are they won’t find it straight away, so they’ll group somewhere and send out scouts, which then come back and relay messages about where they’ve been.

“Before they leave the hive, though, they gorge themselves on honey to keep them going.

It’s a bit like us after a big Sunday roast, you sit back and think everything is fine with the world. They’re very happy bees when they do this.

“A swarm can be a frightening sight to someone who doesn’t know what it is and it makes a very loud noise, but I’ve walked through the middle of one before and not been stung.”

Ms Cushion says swarms are something we can expect to see until at least the middle of next month.

  • If you find a swarm of bees, contact a local beekeeper via the British Beekeepers’ Association website, bbka.org.uk, or the Essex branch website ebka.org so they can come and remove them safely.

RAYLEIGH man Denis Warren was so concerned about public reactions to swarming bees, in his front garden he put up signs, explaining the phenomenon.

Mr Warren, 71, first noticed a cigar-shaped swarm, on a fern tree in his neighbour’s garden in Whitehouse Chase earlier this month. It later moved to a tree in his own front garden.

He said: “At one stage, they swarmed up and were making a terrific noise then, all of a sudden, they went back down again.

“The tree is only about 20 yards from our house. It happened a couple of years ago, too, but never caused any problems. I think they’re amazing creatures.

“I put signs up for pedestrians who were passing within two or three feet for the swarm.

“I was pleasantly surprised how many people stopped to look at them. They seemed genuinely interested.”

The swarm moved on again before Mr Warren could get a beekeeper to collect it and he Warren later learned his neighbour had a slightly less pleasant experience with the bees.

He said: “Whenever the bees got excited and started flying, they excreted this sticky, honey-like substance, which got all over my neighbour’s four cars.”

“He had to wash them three times!”