Bee Swarm at the Edible Schoolyard!

Before you run for cover, this is not the lead-in to a Hitchcock inspired horror movie. Here at the ESY we are beginning beekeepers, so we are experiencing many bee-related phenomenon for the first time this year. Our hive has been with us for a few months now, and during that time its population has grown greatly. Being in a crowded house makes one think of moving out.

Bees, like many social insects, will swarm when their population reaches a certain density. When the bees sense that things are getting crowded they will look for a new home in a protected location, will make another queen to lead them, and will then assemble a portion of the bees to strike out on their own.

An experienced beekeeper can prevent this from happening (because you don’t want to loose a sizable portion of your bees) by giving their hive more space by adding on an additional box with frames (think of it as adding more floors to a high-rise), or by splitting one larger hive into two. Not being an experienced beekeeper, I was aware that our bees were crowded after our neighbors alerted us to a hole in the wall of one of our buildings (not one with children in it!) with bees flying in and out of it.

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We took a look and determined that they were honeybees and that they were, more than likely, ours. We wanted the bees gone because they set up shop too close to the door of a business that rents space from us. We didn’t want the bees to be sprayed either. The Guilford  County Beekeepers Association has a helpful webpage ( http://www.guilfordbeekeepers.org/ ) with information such as local beekeepers that are willing to come to your property to remove swarms (they are making your problem their bees).

When the beekeeper came out we surveyed the area and eventually went inside the building to the wall on the other side of the hole in the wall. The beekeeper suited up and began to remove the paneling.

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I was amazed at how many bees were in the wall cavity, and at how settled in they appeared.

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After about 5 hours of hard work, our beekeeper friend had packed most of the comb from the new hive, as well as most of the bees, into a travel hive that he brought. By working with a community partner everyone came out ahead, and we learned a valuable lesson about bee care.

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Justin

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