2016/2017 Canberra swarm collection statistics

This year is the second year that Canberra Bees has been actively promoting swarm collection in the Canberra region through the primary website (www.canberrabees.com). This season (2016/2017) we recovered over 90 swarms and as part of the collection process, all swarm collectors provided information (including photos) for the swarms collected using a custom application.

Unfortunately, the full statistic gathering application wasn’t in place for the early part of the season, but we do have complete data for 61 of the collected swarms which still provides some excellent insight into swarms in the region.

Below are the results for the 61 swarms that we have collected statistics on so far. If you have any further questions please ask below as the data set contains further information which isn’t published in the graphs below.

Swarm location on the property:
For future reference we have recorded where on the property the swarm was located. This also provides details on if the public was likely exposed to the swarm where it was located.

Number of swarms at location:
When called for a collection there are at times secondary / cast swarms at the location which are collected at the same time.

Has the owner reported swarms at this location before?
If the owner has reported a swarm in previous seasons this is recorded. This suggests that there are possibly bees nearby that are swarming from either managed or natural/feral hives.

Height of the swarm off the ground (in meters)
The height of the swarm off the ground when it was recovered.

Whether the swarm was located on a structure / tree
Swarms are often located on man made structures. This question is to determine how often this occurs.

Approximate size of the swarm (number of Langstroth frames required)
Although not an exact measure, the following gives some indication of the bee numbers in collected swarms.

Likely source of the swarm
A basic observation or discussion with the property owner will usually identify a source of a swarm such as neighbouring hives, tree hollows, wall cavities etc.

Primary colour of collected bees
A basic observation of the bees immediate appearance.

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Well, what an amazing set of stats that totally blow away what many people, both beekeepers and non beekeepers alike, would have considered to be the norm. By example I see that a significant amount of the swarms were collected from less than 1 metre off the ground and that the great majority of bee swarms collected were recovered from properties that either had a beehive or who lived with a beehive in a neighbouring property.

Interesting these bee hives in neighbouring properties specifically exclude those gypsy bees that choose to live in possum boxes, tree hollows and the like which clearly indicates that a number of beekeepers are not being responsible beekeepers at all but rather appear to be hosting insect hotels. I wonder how many swarms from these unmanaged hives escaped without being collected and without the beekeepers knowledge as surely the answer is ‘some’.

And all this (multiple swarms that is) in a year that many locally based beekeepers were arguing was a poor year but I wonder if this was simply because they had had repeated swarms lowering their hives bee numbers to the point were they (the hives) had insufficient numbers of bees within these hives to create the honey surplus that a few of us collected this year throughout the year from various hives placed all around Canberra.

One will never know but wow, again, amazing data that clearly helps to debunk many of the urban myths around honey bee swarm collections. It will be very interesting to review the data in future years and see what this shows and track the future trends.

Lastly, for the 28 people in the survey that reported swarms and had these collected as repeat swarm at their locations I applaud these people for making a difference and calling to have the bees rescued when many others may have just called a pest controller, well done! That said I am also sorry to see that they had to call for repeated collections as, through no fault of their own, they may live next to a person with a beehive in their yard who is not a beekeeper at all but rather is just a keeper of bees… I wonder how many of these are registered hives, perhaps another piece of data that might be able to be collected in future surveys…

Well Done all the same!!!, great data.

Hey there, how does one get on the swarm collector list?


In short, we don’t really operate the swarm collection list like a traditional bee keeping club and we (at time of writing) have enough people to cover our current load of calls sorry (eg. 3 co-ordinated collectors covered 6 calls on Sunday).

One of the basic ideas that the site was founded on was providing a service to the public to assist in hiving swarms, which, as the above statistics show, more than likely come from a beekeepers hive in the first place.

What we have seen from beekeeping clubs is a inconsistent approach to the process which is what we wanted to clean up. Many established beekeepers unfortunately treat the lists as a way to make money off the unsuspecting public. As our swarm collectors are representing our brand when they collect swarms, we make absolutely sure that the service we were providing is as consistent as possible. The major issue with other club collection processes is that you may or may not be charged depending on who is called and many collectors ‘play by their own rules’.

Our process is a little more refined:

  • All swarm collectors are insured and have a current/valid police check
  • Listed collectors are collecting for the ‘greater good’, not to catch one or two swarms for personal use
  • We use our resources to collect swarms on the same day of the call (most within hours)
  • Members of the public aren’t charged for the service
  • Swarms are correctly quarantined after collection (we have secured sites for this)
  • Collectors don’t remove established colonies from buildings (eg. wall cavities etc.)
  • All collectors provide statistics on collected swarms including photographs where practical (for the creation of the above dataset)
  • If wasps or other pests are identified, a process is followed to ensure the job is followed up by a registered pest controller (or wasp removal specialists)

We also ask that the collected swarms are used to support the site, and the furthering of this community. This includes use of swarms for training courses, education and statistics / information gathering which we also release back to the public. If swarms are to be re-sold, or built into nucs the queens are replaced and they are only on sold to responsible owners who can prove registration in their region (ie. ACT or NSW registration).

Although the swarm collection site looks to be primarily Eric (@BBH), we have five collectors across the region that collect swarms. Several of these swarm collectors prefer not to have their phone numbers advertised online, so Eric provides the function of both fielding/screening the calls (ie. confirming it is indeed a bee swarm) as well as passing the calls on to the other collectors. We have found that this approach also improves the consistency of the process for the general public.

As for where the current collectors came from… really it was through talking / crossing paths at beekeeping meetings, training courses and other random bee related encounters. If you’re knocking around in Canberra at meetings etc. by all means come and say hi.

If you’re just after a swarm for your own hive, let us know!

Thanks RBK, very thorough response and a professional approach to the collection and responses to swarms in Canberra. Who should I be looking for at the meetings other than a Ned Kelly gravitar?

Great question, i’ll drop you a message :slight_smile: