First you hear the sound, then you see the sight: A convergence of flying, stinging insects numbering tens of thousands has alighted thisclose to where you live. The terror of the sight makes the terror of the sound all the greater: You close your windows and doors, but the humming and buzzing overwhelms your house anyway. Out of sight is not out of mind and your heart is racing. What to do next — call the exterminator?
There is only one way that honey bees reproduce. A “king” and “queen” never go off and start a family without the palace attendants. A queen, who lays up to 1,500 eggs a day, can never mother these precious little ones to adulthood. How could she ever continue laying and provide food and shelter for all her offspring at the same time? The beehive is no robin’s nest. Instead of starting small and building a home they can afford and manage like Mr. and Mrs. Robin, the queen — and by the way, the “king” factors no more in the hive than a jester in the palace — has bigger plans: When she moves out, leaving a rival queen and her queendom, she takes half the kingdom with her, and they will all need to find a good place to stay. If they don’t, that budding nation state will starve to death.
Of course, you could go to the aerosol can or call the exterminator and bring about their end a bit quicker. That, of course — especially when multiplied by startled homeowners everywhere — would have a negative impact on the viability of this species, which is responsible for the existence of fully a third of the human food supply, to say nothing of the food of other creatures. And homeowners and industrial farmers are already jeopardizing honey bee populations with their chemical magic that produces sterile monocultures containing as much biodiversity as a standard coloring book.
An alternative to killing the bees is to call a beekeeper, and donate the queen and her hardworking colony to a friendly, adoptive home.
There are only two places beekeepers get their bees: from a supplier or from the wild. Wild bees are called feral bees, and their gene pool is just beginning to be studied. Commercially bred bees will still pollinate and make honey, but as researchers have recently concluded, because of their “immunocompetence,” feral bees survive in the wild without the pesticides and medicines used in managed colonies and their gene pool could improve disease resistance.
So if you see a swarm this spring, do not panic: Swarming bees are usually docile and are unlikely to attack or sting. Instead, contact the Lackawanna Beekeepers and within hours, probably before an exterminator could arrive, the bees will be on their way to a new, safe colony.
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Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Swarming honey bees? CALL 570-335- 3091 or 570-877-3064. Lackawanna Backyard Beekeepers Renee Czubowicz and Dr. Maggie Miller. You can also reach them by emailing Lackawannabackyardbeekeepers@gmail.com or on Facebook.