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Archive for Thursday, May 16, 2013

Garden Calendar: Bees begin annual swarming

May 16, 2013

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Over the next few weeks, honey bees will gradually become more active, and a swarm of them could end up in your yard.

If they do, remain calm and enjoy the beauty from a window (or outside if you are willing, as the bees have little interest in you). If they stick around and are unacceptable co-residents, call a beekeeper for assistance.

Spring bee swarms are quite a sight: They typically include 1,500 to 30,000 bees, moving with a queen whose pheromones will keep the group together. Sometimes they look like they are moving as one cohesive unit.

They are essentially out looking for a new home, following instinct. Bees are most likely to leave a hive or nest when the nest is overcrowded or congested, when the colony’s queen becomes old, or in years with mild winters.

Spring bee swarms are quite a sight: They typically include 1,500 to 30,000 bees, moving with a queen whose pheromones will keep the group together.

Spring bee swarms are quite a sight: They typically include 1,500 to 30,000 bees, moving with a queen whose pheromones will keep the group together.

Bee removers

Lawrence-area bee removers (beekeepers who are willing to remove swarms and give them a new home):

• Al Abts, 913-369-9606 (Tonganoxie area)

• Richard Bean, 785-615-1548

• Ron Bishop, 785-843-8716

• Jim Fischer, 785-749-1438

• Dwight Jackson, 785-843-0097

• Tony Schwager, 913-206-2188

Skilled beekeepers can usually prevent bee swarms from leaving through good hive management.

Sometimes a swarm will rest in an area for a day or two before moving on, so wait to call for help. Scout bees will leave the swarm to seek out a cavity in which to build a new nest.

Hollow trees are preferred, but hollow spaces in building walls, porches, roofs, etc. may be mistaken as a suitable location by the scout bees.

Swarming bees are highly unlikely to sting unless directly provoked. Most stings occur when bees are protecting their nest and/or their young, neither of which is present during swarming.

If the bees do appear to be taking up residence, decide if their presence is a concern. Honey bees are beneficial pollinators and are an integral part of fruit, vegetable, forage legume, and oil seed crop production. If the honey bee nest is near a doorway or high traffic area, or if you or someone in the home has an allergy, removal may be the best option.

K-State Research and Extension–Douglas County maintains a list of beekeepers who are willing to remove bee swarms in the area. This is a voluntary service, and some may charge a fee to remove the bees.

Contact that office for the most current list, or if residing outside of Douglas County, check with your local county extension office.

In some cases, especially with long-established colonies, bee removal may present challenges that beekeepers are unable to overcome. If a beekeeper is unable to remove the hive, the best bet is to contact a licensed pest control operator who is willing to attempt eradication.

Concern about honey bees and preservation of honey bee colonies has grown in the last several years for a number of reasons.

First, as mentioned, honey bees are important pollinators for fruits, vegetables, forage legumes and oil seed crops. They are credited with about $15 billion in increased crop value per year.

Second, the number of wild bee colonies has been reduced by the introduction of two species of mites that parasitizes the honey bees. (These mites can be controlled in managed colonies.)

Third, the number of beekeepers and managed bee colonies in the U.S. has also declined.

The fourth and perhaps most important reason is a problem known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). According to the USDA, researchers have not yet completely identified the cause or causes of CCD.

— Jennifer Smith is the Horticulture Extension Agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas County. Contact her or an Extension Master Gardener with your gardening questions at 843-7058 or mastergardener@douglas-county.com.

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