Nature reserve is buzzing

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WILDLIFE experts will never forget the day that a swarm made a beeline for their nature reserve.

Visitors to Saltholme got a sight they were not expecting when a massive colony of 20,000 honeybees settled themselves on the back of a road sign right next to the reserve.

Staff at the park, near Hartlepool, contacted the Cleveland Beekeepers Association for help and they expertly transferred the swarm to a new home in Middlesbrough.

Between May and July, honeybees often seek out new homes as the colony becomes too big for their hive and a new queen is about to hatch.

The old queen leaves the hive and usually settles on a tree branch or post and then thousands of bees from the old hive follow, gathering in a tight mass around her.

Emma Dickinson, who works at Saltholme and was one of the first to spot the bees, said: “I’ve never seen anything like it – the swarm covered a quarter of the sign and was at least 10 centimetres deep.

“We’re really happy that the rescued bees are now settling into a new hive in nearby Middlesbrough, giving them a plenty of time to do what they do best – pollination.

“Flowers and crops depend on the hard work of our bees, but sadly many of them are now under threat because of changes to their habitats.

“There are lots of simple steps that we can all take to provide food and homes for bees.

“You can pick up some inspiration in Saltholme’s wildlife garden – it’s bursting with flowers that bees love, as well as homes for bumblebees and solitary bees.”

The Cleveland Bee Association asks anyone who finds a swarm of honeybees not to panic and to visit the association’s website at www.teesbees.co.uk for help and advice.