BUCKHANNON — A swarm of honeybees made itself at home on a local porch Sunday morning, but they weren’t exactly welcomed guests. This was not the first time Lisa and Mike Millfelt had seen a swarm invade their porch, as they first appeared a couple of years ago. Thankfully, some thoughtful residents sprung to action and saved the swarm by helping to rehome the honeybees.
The Millfelts reached out on Facebook to see if someone could help safely remove the swarm from their porch Sunday morning. Upshur County Bee Association member Amy Rice said she saw the post shared on the “Buckhannon Events” Facebook page and quickly reached out to offer the Millfelts assistance. Rice explained that beekeeping is simply a hobby for her, but she also serves as the Secretary of the Upshur County Bee Association.
Rice told The Record Delta that honeybees are typically very docile creatures. When retrieving swarms, they’re commonly located on branches, which can usually be cut and shaken into the bee box. However, with this swarm being located in a precarious position on the porch, Rice and her partner Rob had to scrape them into the box and she was unfortunately stung four times during the process. It reportedly took Rice approximately two hours to extract the swarm for transport to their new home. Although she captured the queen fairly quickly, Rice wanted to collect as much of the cluster as she could.
The good Samaritan explained that it is currently swarm season, so this incident is not uncommon during this time of year. “They fly in a huge cluster that waves up and down,” she explained. “It’s like a ball that waves up and down through the air. It’s so heavy because they are flying with and carrying the queen.” It is also not uncommon for a swarm to reappear in the same area, such as this one has done on the Millfelt’s porch. Rice explained, “You’ll see them reappear in that area for years to come,” as bees reportedly continue to gather in the same location.
Hives start becoming more active as the weather breaks and the queen starts laying eggs. “The hive will get too big for its space pretty quickly when the queen begins laying eggs and the worker bees will determine they need a new queen, so the old queen will leave with half of the hive,” thus creating a swarm, Rice explained.
Rice unfortunately lost all of her hives over the winter. She explained that they became too weak and hornets and yellow jackets came in and robbed them out. Depending on the resources, it typically takes honeybees several months to get established in their new hive after being rehomed.
Rice explained to The Record Delta why honeybees are so important to the environment. “They’re your pollinators. They’re pollinating all of your crops and your flowers. They’re essential to life,” she asserted. Rice also noted that they are not mean or intentionally aggressive like yellow jackets and hornets.
According to Rice, their numbers are dwindling and saving honeybees is extremely important. “You’re not seeing wild hives like you once used to,” she explained, which is due in part to gorilla mites that weaken the hives. Honeybees have to visit nearly 2 million flowers to produce one pound of honey and must consume 6-8 pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax, according to Rice.
If you notice a swarm in an undesired location, “bee kind” and contact a local beekeeper. As a beekeeper, Rice noted “A swarm of bees is our biggest dream because they’re free!” Rice can be contacted at (304) 997-2828 or you can reach out to any member of the Upshur County Bee Association if you have questions or need assistance moving honeybees.