ENVIRONMENT | Bee rescue at swim centre

On Saturday morning, at the request of Liverpool Council, bee expert Frank Maradin ran an operation to protect and safely transport a hive of bees away from the Michael Wenden Aquatic Leisure Centre at Miller.

How long had the bees been there? About 12 to 14 months, determined by the amount of wax comb that had been built. It takes the bees nearly 2.72 kilos of honey to make 0.45 grams of wax.

What was the size of the colony? About 150,000 bees were rescued. There are about 300 bees in a cup full.

When were you asked to do the job? I was contacted by Waratah Environmental Services last month. I'm listed on the beekeeping websites for swarm- and hive-removal. My priority was to assess and remove the bees to not damage them or hurt any people.

Was there any danger -- serious or minor -- to the public and/or staff at the swim centre? There was no immediate danger as the hive was in a staff-only area and the bees had good genetics, being calm and minding their own business. That's a characteristic of the Italian honey bee (Apis Mellifera Ligustica). Some bee species and hives are aggressive but it comes down to the queen. But if someone is anaphylactic or allergic it can cause serious illness, allergic reactions, or even be fatal. Another issue is most people panic when they see a bee buzzing around and they can get stung if they start running around swatting.

What could happen if the hive was left? It would grow in size and when it comes towards spring it could produce a new queen and swarm. The main issue with a wild hive is it could have disease and bugs which can spread to other hives or local beekeepers. Keepers are required by law to have all hives inspected regularly and all diseases reported to stop spread.

How did you move the hive? I use the most direct method of removing items like floorboards to give direct access to the comb, where the unborn babies, or brood, and food (honey) is found. I put these into a hive box. If I left the brood unattended and only removed the bees all the unborn would die. I use basic tools -- a saw, knife smoker and a custom-made bee vacuum that sucks them into a box without harming them.

Why not just exterminate them? Bees are the world's most important pollinators of food crops. About a third of the food we eat each day relies on pollination mainly by bees.

Where did you take them? To remote bush at West Hoxton to re-establish themselves. As winter is approaching they'll be closely supervised as they didn't have much food stores and they could need feeding in the wet colder days. Once established they're put into areas that help with regeneration and pollination of parklands or farming crops.

How did you transport them? They're sealed into the hive with mesh and put into the location. Grass is put into the entrance of the hive which forces them to orientate themselves to the new location.

How did you subdue them? Smoke is used as this keeps them calm and blocks the pheromone being spread for them to attack. Remaining calm and not squishing always helps.

What other animals/insects/pests do you rescue or eradicate? I only specialise in bees.

How would someone contact you? Search on the internet for hive and swarm removal or go to www.beekeepers.asn.au. Or find local clubs to help. I'm with Macarthur Beekeepers Association.

How did you protect yourself? I have a full-length triple-layered suit with gloves and boots.

How often have you been stung? I've been stung over 50 times. It depends on the genetics of the bee whether I get a rash or it swells up. Over time, the body doesn't build immunity and an allergic reaction can develop.

How long have you been doing this? About five years.

08/05/19: Spelling of Maradin corrected.