Monday, April 13, 2009

Utah Valley beekeepers: Take us to your swarm

Caleb Warnock - DAILY HERALD

With local bee populations decimated over the past several years because of mite infestations, Utah Valley beekeepers are looking for bee swarms to save.
"Honey bee populations are on the decline, so we are losing them," said Neil Shelley of the Utah County Beekeepers Association. "Capturing the swarms allows us to maintain what would otherwise be lost."

Neighborhood gardens, orchards and farms are dependent upon honey bees, which do the vast majority of local pollinating, he said. Many people don't realize how precarious the local harvest would be without the work of local beekeepers.

Without human help to treat the devastating mites that plague hives, local bees "are only going to survive for a short period of time," he said.

Though swarms typically begin appearing in March, this year's extended cold spell has prevented that. But Shelley said he expects the first swarms to begin appearing within a week. Residents who happen to find themselves in the path of a swarm typically call police or fire crews for help, and beekeepers want local residents and emergency personnel to know that certified beekeepers stand at the ready to remove any swarm in the county within 45 minutes.

In a typical year, the group collects about 60 local swarms, Shelley said.

The bees are shaken into a bucket, poured into a standard hive box, and then left on location until after dark, he said. That is because once the bees are put into the box, several hundred immediately leave to find food for the new colony. Bees that are accidently left behind when keepers remove a swarm can become confused and frustrated, so keepers wait until after dark to remove the hive in the box, knowing that by nightfall all the bees will have returned to the hive.

Though a swarm may sound and look menacing, in truth "they are relatively harmless," he said, noting the bees are much too busy moving themselves to be bothered with human beings.

Anyone who finds a swarm is asked to call Neil Shelley at (801) 822-4114. A certified beekeeper will be dispatched to collect the hive immediately.

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