- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - For honeybees, it’s the time of the year to find a new home.

That means a queen bee takes half of the hive and starts her search for a new location, and it can result in people finding a swarm of bees near a tree or building.

While experts say swarming honeybees are not harmful, it may also be an opportune time for businesses and home owners to contact an expert to help relocate the endangered insects.

Someone like Joe Butcher, a member of the Indiana Beekeepers Association and Wabash Valley Bee Club. “Honey bees are the number one pollinator,” he said. “They pollinate one third of the food that we eat, so one in every three bites (of food) is because of the honeybee.”

The honeybee pollinates 90 kinds of crops. And the unique aspect of the insect is that once it starts to pollinate one plant - say an apple tree blossom - the bee continues to land just on the apple blossoms during that flight. “The honeybee is particular about mixing its food, so it stays with one kind on a single flight. That is why they are such good pollinators,” said Andy Lohrman, also a member of the Indiana Beekeepers Association and president of the Clay County Beekeepers Association.

Swarms of bees are typically seen between April and the end of June, Butcher said.

This year, both Butcher and Lohrman have been contacted to relocate bees.

“I just took some bees out of a tree behind McDonald’s on Wabash Avenue (in Terre Haute) and took other bees out of a house” in the Terre Haute subdivision of Dobbs Glen, Lohrman said.

A tree by McDonald’s had an estimated 40,000 honeybees, Lohrman said, who several years ago invented a “swarminator bee vacuum,” which uses bee frames and a shop vacuum to move air through a hive and safely remove bees. Lohrman said he always tries to save a brood area, where bees lay eggs. With his swarminator, he can take 60 percent to 70 percent of an established hive and move it a new location, he said.

Lohrman has kept many of the bees he relocates in hives he maintains as a beekeeper, but can also locate them to other beekeepers or in areas where the bees will not be a concern. When bees search for a new hive, they consume a lot of the honey in the hive, as they do not know how soon they will find a suitable site, Lohrman said.

That makes swarming bees “not in a dangerous state,” he said. In fact, honeybees only sting when their hive or honey is in danger, Butcher said. “They don’t have a home to protect, as they are looking to find one, so they are not as defensive,” Butcher said.

“This time of year (when) bees are swarming heavily, that means the queen decides to split the hive and start a new colony. That is self-preservation and a way the bees expand numbers. It is healthy for the hive and breaks the life cycle for the mite in the hives,” Butcher said.

Lohrman said the U.S. honeybee population is half of what it was in the 1940s, with parasites the main reason honeybees are now endangered. Lohrman said honeybees were stricken by the varroa mite and tracheal mite, introduced to North America in the 1980s.

“Honeybees are very important as pollinators,” Lohrman said. “Honeybees are also a social insect and create honey that is consumable by humans. It is the only insect that makes food that man can eat, and honey is the only food that can sustain human life by itself; it has everything you need.”

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Source: Tribune-Star, http://bit.ly/1HYb8Tr

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Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

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