CASTILE – A resident bee swarm at Letchworth State Park is causing a buzz on social media.
Dan Heale posted these photos of the swarm making a giant golden open-air honeycomb, and instantly park visitors began posting their concerns about the bees’ winterability.
“I hope a local bee keeper gets to rescue them before winter!” posted Gretchen Nach Caora.
“Do you think it’s because it’s been hot for so long they have been tricked into thinking there won’t be winter?” posted Peter SunRa Ott.
Fortunately, Kim Sickles-Thrasher, herself a former beekeeper in southwest Virginia, swept in to assure everyone that the bees will winter over.
“These are probably feral bees. They’ve never experienced a hive situation and are simply doing what bees do,” posted Sickles-Thrasher. “If this was a swarm from an apiary or a hobby bee keeper, they would have sought a hive situation inside a tree, a hollow log etc. Non domesticated bees like these are just doing their thing. They are hardy enough to survive northern winters.”
She explained that honeybees do not truly hibernate, they just slow down their activities during the cold months and survive on body heat and honey stores.
“The clump of bees you saw in the photo was about 30,000 bees,” said Sickles-Thrasher. “That’s a lot of body heat. About 93 degrees at the center of a cluster. Old bees will die off in the cold and the young bees are stronger and survive within the colony. When food (honey) becomes scarce in the combs, the worker bees push the drones away and do not let them eat. They starve and the colony is left with the strongest bees to start the new season.”
She posted to on-edge visitors that the swarm can be unnerving, but said that bees are most docile in a swarm.
“Many people are freaked out by swarming. Interestingly, bees are the most docile during a swarm,” posted Sickles-Thrasher. “In the middle of those bees is their Queen. She is emitting a strong pheromone that causes the swarm to be ‘stoned.’ The pheromone ‘forces’ the bees to stay with her as they travel to a new location.”
Sickles-Thrasher further said that bees are so critical to agriculture and human food supplies that she encourages everyone to consider keeping some bees.
“Bees can be kept in cities, on rooftop gardens or even patio/decks. Honeybees like many family pets have been domesticated and unless seriously provoked, seldom bother folks near their hives. With the challenges facing our bees population, I encourage everyone to consider hobby bee keeping.”
“The best way to get started is to buddy up with a local beekeeper or hit your local library or internet resources to get basic info,” said Sickles-Thrasher. “Then purchase your first hive body and get it ready for your bees. It’s never a good idea to purchase used hives as there are a couple of fungal issues that can kill off a whole colony. Hives and bees can be ordered online and delivered to your door. Your postman might give you the stink eye but it’s safe and easy. You can also purchase bees from bee keepers looking to reduce their hives numbers or sizes. There are many options as this hobby becomes more popular and people understand that we are completely reliant on bees for our food supply. No pollination…no crops…no food.”