Honey bees are on the swarm - here's what to do if they pay you a visit

The return of warm weather also means the beginning of bee swarming season in New Zealand - so what should you do if a swarm comes to visit?

A beekeeper (apiarist) captures a swarm of bees in Auckland. Source: Luke Appleby

Swarm season can start as early as August and last until January, and it's triggered by an increase in flowering plants, more pollen for queen bees, and more eggs being laid.

A swarm is often triggered when an existing hive becomes too crowded, a new queen bee is born, and she strikes out on her own to form a new hive.

Bees can also swarm due to a lack of food or water, disease infestation of their hive, frequent disturbance by humans or animals, and other reasons.

Swarms can be alarming, especially for those with an allergy to their sting, so the first step if you notice one should be to close your windows and doors to make sure the bees don't wander inside, and to secure pets and children so they don't get stung.

Keep your distance from the swarm and try not to disturb it - bees are generally peaceful but will defend themselves with stings if they feel threatened.

It's important to remember that bees are important - they pollinate our crops and should be encouraged, not doused with insecticide or killed in other ways.

The next step is to call a beekeeper to come and collect the swarm - you'll see that swarms generally settle into a ball formation, with the queen being held at the centre for warmth and security.

Apiculture New Zealand maintains a list of trained apiarists who can be called to come and collect swarms for re-homing - that list can be found here.

Alternatively, there are many New Zealand Facebook groups on the topic of beekeeping, with many apiarists in those groups more than willing to come and help out.