Bees: Help keep our friendly neighbors safe

By JAMES LEE

There is a famous misquote that circles social media from time to time. 

That misquote is attributed to the likes of Einstein, Darwin and whomever else one might imagine. Whether true or not, the quote inspires pause and for a moment, consideration of the plight of our own human existence. The power of this quote motivates the human condition to take into consideration how inextricably connected to a tiny stinging insect we really are.

The quote, something like “if honey bees were to disappear from earth, humans would be dead within four years,” most certainly makes one consider his or her mortality and maybe sparks a desire to help save the honey bee.

Do the honeybees need saving? 

What could someone who has no knowledge of the species do to influence a change so dramatic that the delicate human-honeybee balance finds equilibrium?

Although the quote is indeed considered a misquote, it doesn’t matter that Einstein or whomever might not have said it. Principally, if we did lose all the honeybees, humans would likely not go extinct in whole. However, there would be a great deal of global starvation due to loss of the pollination accomplished by this magnificent little creature.

We also would lose a great deal of our flower diversity, as many depend on pollinators like the honeybee to aid in their propagation and without it those flowers ultimately will meet their demise. 

With the loss of those flowers, the domino effect also would impact other pollinators. Thus, chaos would ensue.

Save the bees! 

People have long responded to the plight of our beloved honey bee with that proclamation. Documentaries and information campaigns have been more abundant since Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) became more widely known to the general public. But honey bees actually have shown little to no decline.

While a noble feat, running out to purchase bees and start a colony to save them could have the opposite effect. The last thing anyone wants is to destroy a colony due to ignorance, when in fact the full intent was to help bees and ultimately humanity. If you want to help the honey bee, study for a season, find a mentor and attend local bee club meetings before going full tilt.

One of the evidences that bee colonies are doing well in an area is that they are present, whether they are kept in someone’s managed populations or they are wild bees that have taken up residence in a cavity of someone’s humble abode or out-buildings or a tree in the vicinity.

You might also see them foraging on plants in your yard or buds and flowering trees in the neighborhood. One thing is for sure, honey bees are not the black and yellow critters that hover around your picnic or patio gatherings seeking sweet sips of soda.

Another evidence that bees are in the area and doing well is called swarming.

Springtime is almost here and that means honey bee swarms are, too. Honey bees build up their numbers as the weather starts to warm in January and February. By March and April their numbers can begin crowding their homes, and through the magnificent democracy of bees, they decide to send some packing.

Those evicted bees and a queen take flight to a potential home identified by scouts who have picked out a site beforehand. On the way, they may stop in your yard, porch, car, fence, light post or any other area they deem adequate to take a break.

Now mind you, these stinging insects do indeed sting, but swarms that have left home in search of new digs are not typically interested in overt acts of aggression. They have gorged themselves with honey and have no home to defend, thus allowing them to focus on important matters. These matters —sheltering the queen and arriving safely at their next location — are at the top of their list.

Usually swarms will not stay long. They will eventually get to where they are going. 

In most instances, these swarms will come from someone’s bees who have grown beyond their boxes and they have lower chances of success in the wild, as “kept” populations of bees are dependent on beekeeper interventions that treat them for viruses and pests regularly, hoping to increase their chances of survival.

Some swarms will go on to propagate beyond the interventions of man, and though once domesticated critters (kind of) they become feral through adaptation to the wild without these treatments.

Swarms can be easily removed by a local beekeeper. 

They could be served well to be captured and re-hived in a colony somewhere where they will be cared for and serve the much-needed task of pollination and provide the benefit of honey production. 

Many people are uneducated on the plight or dangers of these fantastic stinging insects, and fear can result in unnecessary eradication of a swarm through pest spray or dousing it with garden hoses.

Though honeybees are easily attained through bred stock that is shipped into Michigan, there are still some beekeepers around interested in retrieving the swarm in your yard or the ones you saw on the fence on the corner. Some will even perform a removal of bees from the interior of your home, because sometimes that happens. 

Removal from buildings or interior locations may result in an unwanted expense, however there are other problems that occur if they are not removed.

So, to help save the bees, help them find good homes. Call a local beekeeper to remove the spring swarms that will be happening any day now! April, May, and June are prime swarming times. 

Many beekeepers will provide free exterior removals and others for a nominal fee. Either way, it is worth it.

We help them and they help us. But whatever you do — don’t spray them! 

They eventually leave. If they take up more permanent residence and cannot be removed, Michigan winters often take care of them, as well.

Beekeeper James Lee of Romulus can be reached via his website www.mibeeswarmremoval.com or via his Facebook page, Bee Benevolent Swarm Removal. Almost all swarm removals are free

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