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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog
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Pass the Honey Bees.


When most people think about bees, the first thought is probably to get away from them as fast as they can.  Or if this is not the case, then it is to grab the nearest can of Raid.  Bees invoke fear in many people; and unfortunately, this results in killing bees when they are seen. However, these are fascinating creatures, and they serve a very important role in the environment and agriculture.

Bees are important pollinators for a number of agriculture products, but they are also producers of their own agriculture product.  Honey bees (just one type of bee) produce honey.  That seems kind of obvious -  they are called honey bees after all.  Honey bees, like many other pollinators, are threatened by habitat loss, excessive pesticide use and people's fear of being stung.  This threat translates into less honey production and less honey for you to put in your tea or on your peanut butter sandwiches.

Many people respond in fear when they see a “Ball of Bees”.  This behavior is very normal and the swarming is part of the reproduction process of the bees.  It is how they start a new hive.  Bees will nest in cavities, which can include attics and other buildings that are inhabited by people and animals.  So when you see this behavior, it probably means that the bees are getting ready to establish a new colony somewhere nearby.  Randy Ward and Reggie Baugher are beekeepers that work in Mason County. Between these two beekeepers, they have more than 30 hives.  They collect “swarming” bees and establish a new colony by placing the queen in a bee hive.  This allows the rest of the bees to move in and establish a colony that they can use to produce honey.

Many beekeepers lost colonies over the winter and are looking to reestablish their bees.  Randy attributes these losses to the length of the winter and low nectar production in July 2014.  These two factors he believes to be significant contributors to the decline and loss of so many hives.

If you see a large group of bees that are swarming (they look like a clump of bees or a ball of bees), contact your local extension office to locate a local beekeeper that might be interested in starting a new colony.  Beekeeping is becoming more popular. If you would like to learn more about beekeeping, consider attending a meeting of the Mason County Beekeeping Club.  The club meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm at the Easton Fire House.

For more information, contact your local extension office or Jason Haupt (jdhaupt@illinois.edu).

 



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