Hutchinson Bees around central Kansas seem all abuzz in recent days.
However, it’s typical behavior this time of year as they try to find a new summer home after months in hibernation, said Stacy Rogers, Mount Hope, who with her husband, Wes, removes bee swarms from structures and trees around central Kansas.
However, for those who happen upon a new colony pulsating with life, it can be a shocking sight.
Around 8 a.m. Tuesday, Steve Nachtigal arrived at New Hope Counseling Services on South Main Street in Hutchinson to find bees swarming around a boarded-up window at his business.
While some bees circled, others slipped through a crack to join thousands of other bees clustered together in a new colony between the board and the glass.
The bees weren’t around the building on Friday, but had taken up residence on the window sometime over the weekend. By Tuesday morning, bees were busy at work, building a honeycomb.
Moving a colony
Dr. Tony Powers, an optometrist by day and a registered beekeeper, was called to remove the colony.
Dressed in the protective beekeeper suit with a veil and wire screen over a large hat, Powers removed the outside wood covering the glass. Then he used a special vacuum and sucked the colony up, and transported it to a private pasture out in the country.
“It’s nothing unusual,” Powers said. “It’s typical this time of year.”
For Stacy Rogers, whose business is “Bee Charmer,” they remove swarms and colonies that get into structures, and find places for the bees, such as an orchard, where they can happily pollinate.
“Over the winter the colony decreases, then during the spring and summer they are collecting pollen, and they often run out of room as the colony increases,” Stacy Rogers said. “Half of the colony will split off, and up and move. They create a new queen. Sometimes the whole colony will move.”
Overnight, people will discover a swarm of bees, shaped like a football, hanging off a branch in a tree. These bees are looking for a new home. But in the situation at the New Hope Counseling building, they got into the glass and were no longer swarming, but happily at home in a new colony.
“Amazing creatures” is how Jeff Wells, vice president of Advance Termite and Pest Control, describes bees. While he thinks it would seem like second nature to call a beekeeper when a swarm is discovered, exterminators are the ones who generally get the call.
“They can scare the heck out of people,” said Wells, whose staff has been trained to harvest the swarm. A small colony can have from 30,000 to 60,000 bees. They take them back to their office and have several beekeepers they call to come get them. With the rising cost of bees, Wells said the beekeepers don’t hesitate to pick up the honey makers.
Importance of bees
Preserving honeybees is important, Rogers said, because not only is there a shortage, but also the honeybee is the Kansas state insect and makes good honey.
Typically this time of year, she can get up to eight or nine phone calls a day about removing bees.
Understanding the life of bees doesn’t come with simple explanations, said Bob Bauernfeind, a Kansas State University entomologist who specializes in turf, shade tree and woody ornamental insects.
“A colony is very intricate,” Bauernfeind said. There are times when a colony experiences overcrowding and then will form breakaway colonies, with a queen and followers, whether the original queen or a new queen, he said.