OGDEN -- As temperatures start to rise, so does the activity level of bees, but many licensed area beekeepers caution: Don't kill the bees!
The care of these honey-producers and pollinators is a tricky process, but many people across the Top of Utah are certified to care of bees and are glad to come and remove the hives that appear in yards.
Killing bees only adds to a growing problem of these helpful creatures disappearing, said Brad Barton, a licensed beekeeper for 15 years.
Barton started keeping bees about 15 years ago after reading a Standard- Examiner article about a beekeeper.
Barton, an avid gardener, thought it might be good to start keeping some bees of his own, so he contacted the beekeeper and started a new hobby.
He talks about the first time he watched them work and saw the queen do her job with the hive.
"I was in love," he said. Now, 15 years later, he is still passionate about his bees and has 23 hives in his backyard.
It has become a family affair. Barton, his wife and six children all work with the bees and are quite busy during the spring, when he works through the Utah State University Extension Service to get hives, and during the hot months of July and August while harvesting the honey.
Barton said many myths are associated with bees and beekeeping. The first impulse for many when they see a hive is to get out a pesticide and try to kill them, he said.
But that is not wise. Because of their nature, although some bees may die from the spray, many will be back. The only way to completely remove the bees is to move the hive.
He has seen instances in which people tried to kill the bees, and the bees return and nest in an open space near the spot where the others were killed -- sometimes in eaves of houses or even floorboards, which can be a big mess to take care of, he said.
Another thing people don't always grasp is how vital bees are to food consumption in general.
"One-third of food consumed is a direct result of bees," Barton said. "All crops do better when bees are around."
Rick Flamm, a friend of Barton's, was lamenting the lack of good production of his fruit trees and garden. Barton suggested that he get a couple of hives, and the change has been impressive.
"You can see the difference in the (fruit) trees where the hives are, and where they aren't," Flamm said.
"He got me hooked," he said, pointing to Barton as he held one of his bee screens covered in bees.
Another myth pertaining to bees is the danger of stings. The species of bees seen along the Wasatch Front is harmless.
"You don't bother them, they don't bother you," said Barton's daughter, Aubrey Barton. The only times she has been stung were when she was outside barefoot and stepped on a bee. For neighbor kids or families, Brad Barton said, there has been no danger.
Aubrey said she has loved the beekeeping experience. Not only does she enjoy watching the process of the bees pollinating and doing their "work," she has enjoyed the "daddy-daughter" time with Brad.
"I like it so much because it's unique. There is a joy and peace I feel being out in the hive," she said.
Bees are disappearing as a result of factors ranging from small insects that attack the bees and hives to systemic insecticides that also can destroy the hives.
Barton thinks that, through technology and nature itself, the bees will find a way to thrive again, but for now, it is important to keep as many bees alive as possible.
"If you like to eat, you've got to love bees," Barton said. His bees "bless gardens" for at least a 2-mile radius of his Uintah home.
Barton enjoys the opportunity to turn someone into a bee lover. He relates an experience he had a while back, when he discovered a mass of dead bees, and an older man came out to the area and proudly proclaimed that he had killed them all. Barton quickly explained behavior of the bees and the process they go through. The man soon understood and now calls Barton when he has hives, so Barton can capture them and care for them properly.
For more information on beekeeping or to have a hive removed from your property, call Barton at 801-791-9017 or Utah State University Extension Service at 801-399-8201, or go online to www.extension.usu.edu.
The extension service offers classes on beekeeping and holds beekeeping seminars each year. The hobby has grown rapidly because so many people now realize the value of bees.