Great spring for local honey bees


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Jun 03, 2023

Great spring for local honey bees

It has been a great spring to be a honey bee. For two months it seemed like the

It has been a great spring to be a honey bee.

For two months it seemed like the whole world was blooming. Cleveland pear trees, red buds, forsythia, tulips, crocus, daffodils, dogwood, hyacinth, lilacs, peonies, and dandelions bloomed like an explosion of color followed by the plentiful white blossoms on the invasive honeysuckle in our woods and fence rows.

Our cars were covered with yellow pollen dust, and our sinuses went crazy.

But the honey bees were thrilled and feasted on all the pollen.

The newly awakened hives, which look like a stack of white wooden boxes, were sending workers out with such speed that bee yards looked busier than Atlanta and O’Hare airports.

That huge inflow of pollen put the bee hives on the fast track for expansion. Honey making was booming. Within those wooden boxes or supers are racks of pre-formed comb that guide the bees to make their comb regular and neat. The bees quickly built upon it. Then filled each cell with the golden nectar.

All is fine and good until those rows are filled. If the bees fill all their storage space before the bee keeper can add another empty super to the stack, bees start making plans. It's time, in their opinions, to get outta Dodge.

A new queen is raised by the workers and when she is ready, she will take approximately half the workers with her. Those left will remain with the old queen and all the honey.

Now this is not an organized migration. Nope, it's like the bees hear a secret alarm and away they go in a cloud of bees.

Eventually they gather in a clump on the limb of a tree or swing set, or the porch, or a grill, a fence. The queen is in the middle. The swarm is looking for better place to set up their new home.

That dream home the new queen is seeking has traditionally been a hollow tree, but now that humans live nearby there aren't as many hollow trees. And hanging around in a big clump can be awkward or even scary.

These swarms don't chase folks like Winnie the Pooh in the cartoons. Nope, that is something else entirely. If left alone, they just hang out in a clump, waiting.

When homeowners see a swarm, they try to figure out what to do. Some are so worried about the swarm that they grab a can of Raid.

Whoa. …..No, no, no. STOP. Don't do that. There are many reasons to not spray.

I asked a local beekeeper what folks should do about a swarm.

Killing the swarm is something that should be avoided. Bees are too valuable to our environment, he told me. The best thing to do is stay far away from them and contact local beekeepers, or local emergency services that have a list of bee keepers.

Bee keepers love to adopt swarms. When a bee keeper arrives, stand way back or watch the procedure through a window. One will show up generally with a cardboard box that he or she will position under the swarm to get the swarm to fall into the box.

Then the swarm is relocated into a wooden box called a super, which has all the space a new queen desires to raise her own family. Generally bee keepers don't charge for this but sometimes they might if removal was complicated like in a wall, or they had to travel a long distance.

Buying a new queen and a few hundred bees to start a hive sets the bee keeper back nearly a hundred dollars. However, if the bee keeper relocates that swarm back to the bee yard, it is an inexpensive way to expand, and you’ve supported an independent business. Also farmers and gardeners will have more vegetables and fruit because the pollinators have increased in numbers.

I asked the bee keeper what happens if you do nothing. He said that the swarm moves on eventually to a different place, hopefully not into the wall of building. It's less of a problem for all if a bee keeper adopts them.

So if you happen to find a swarm on your property, keep your distance from them. Get children and pets safely into the house and then call a bee keeper. This can be a win-win-win situation.

And mother nature will thank you as well with honey for your toast.

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