A Swarm Without Harm
BeeLoved was created with the intention of using beekeeping as an avenue for individuals experiencing homelessness and those who are under-resourced to have the opportunity to develop skills and re-enter the workforce. With all of the resources to manage in this kind of endeavor, we needed a solid team to make this work. One of these dedicated team members is Steven Whitaker, one of the co-founders of BeeLoved and a passionate beekeeper himself.
What began as a modest undertaking with a donated beehive developed into an enterprise designed to affect positive change in the community.
“I kind of fell in love with it, with the beekeeping side of things, so we got some more swarms and wound up buying some bees. You can buy packages of bees and raise your own hives that way, and we got some donated equipment, and we had, before we knew it, double digits of hives.”
Steven helps to run the beekeeping side of things here at BeeLoved, and is passionate about helping the community and raising awareness about the importance of not only bees, but other native pollinators as well.
“In Oklahoma, honey bees are not natural. Here, we have lots of natural pollinators we should try to protect in habitats. We as a country should rephrase the whole conversation to protecting pollinators, not just honey bees. Every area has its own native pollinators, and they’re all susceptible to the same things that are killing bees–the pesticides and herbicides.”
Unfortunately, many people may be reluctant to aid in the preservation of bees due to fear.
It’s no secret, bees do sting, but according to Steven, bees have very specific reasons for stinging that can explain their behavior.
“When people randomly get stung, it was probably their perfume or something they’ve eaten that simulates a smell and [the bees] are just doing what comes naturally. Unless you grab them when they’re away from their hive, or unless you’re messing with their home, they will not sting.”
When there is danger, bees exude specific pheromones that alert the hive. For example, according to Steven, bananas actually smell like the pheromone bees release when there is an enemy nearby, so if you are eating a banana and you get stung, that’s why.
All bee behavior does have specific reasoning behind it, even the sometimes perplexing, and even alarming, behavior called swarming.
“Swarms are misunderstood as an aggression by the bees, [but our] bees here, as a matter of fact, are more docile when they swarm than if they were in their hive or protecting their home. You can literally walk right up and stick your hand right into the ball of bees that’s clustered on a park bench or a low-hanging limb on a tree, and you won’t get stung if you just gradually stick it in there.”
If you see a swarm, which looks like a large clump of living bees hanging on a branch or fence nearby, don’t call an exterminator! Bees swarm as a way to increase their numbers, and if they are killed via pesticide, that hive’s reproductive effort for that year is lost. With bees being in such a dire position around the world, we have to do the very best we can to ensure that their numbers grow.
“You should probably give them space, but if they’re just clustered up outside, they’re not going to hurt anyone until somebody can get to them. They won’t stay there longer than 24 hours usually in that spot. They have sent scout bees out to find a more protected spot, like somebody’s attic, or a hole in a tree preferably. They’ll sit there until they get communication back from the scout bees, and the scout bees will literally go fly to these spots, and they measure by walking the three-dimensional space to make sure it’s big enough. They’ll go fly back, and then they’ll send more bees to corroborate the answer, and then they’ll all go take off.”
If you find a swarm in your property, give BeeLoved a call! We’ll come and safely remove the swarm without harming the bees, so they and you are kept safe. Everybody can do their part to help #savethebees, so from Steven and everyone else here at BeeLoved, we ask you to please keep this in mind if you ever see a swarm in your area.