Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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kerrie@fosterbees.com.au

Will a honey bee hive swarm if aggravated?

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Will a honey bee hive swarm if aggravated?

Hi all, I work with parrots that nest in cliff cavities in the Carribbean. In the same area, feral honey bees (likely africanised) are present, and even out compete the parrots for the cavities sometimes.

Today I managed to piss off a hive near one of my nests just by being in the general area (about 7m from the hive). I noticed the sky above the hive was filling with hundreds of bees so we aborted the climb, my assistant abseiled to the bottom of the cliff and I found somewhere else to climb down. We hung out in the valley below (about 150m from the hive) for 10 mins while we checked we were okay, then went to see if we could see activity up at the hive from below.

From below we could see a tonne of activity, thousands of bees in the sky above a second hive that was about 20m from our climb point. We guessed that the first aggravated hive had set off the second.

We called it a day and though let's come back later for the kit so we went to leave via the route we had been hanging out, now about 20 mins prior. The sky above the short dry forest canopy (only about 4m high) was filled with thousands of bees we could hear, and a tree branch right where we were sat before was now covered in a basketball size pile of bees. Needless to say we immediately ran the opposite way.

I don't know much about bees but had I have seen this on any other day I would assume a hive was swarming, the queen was on the tree , and scouts were out looking for a new place to nest. But given the scare from the aggravated nests I don't know what was going on. Did we aggravate a hive into swarming? Or had the bee hive been aggravated so much on the cliff that all other gives were being set off? Were the bees actively hunting for us? Or was it something else?

Also bonus points if you can tell me when it's safe to go back to the top of the cliff and get my climbing kit back. I was thinking sunrise they should be least active and forgotten all about today, is that a good idea?

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