TLC for bees / Don't consider exterminating honeybees; an expert will come to the rescue

Sep 27 2010 - 9:36pm

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(BRAD GILLMAN/Standard-Examiner) Bruce Bowen (left) and his son, Trenton Bowen, investigate their family hives in Hooper.
(BRAD GILLMAN/Standard-Examiner) Bruce Bowen (left) and his son, Trenton Bowen, investigate their family hives in Hooper.

As the calendar flips into the fall months, honeybee hives are being found everywhere.

"I am getting about a call a day," said Albert Chubak, owner of Utah Bee Removal service in Salt Lake City. "About now until winter is a good time (to find hives)."

The hives, Chubak stressed, have probably been there since spring or earlier. People are finding them now because bees are the few insects still flying this time of the year so they are more noticeable.

"Honeybees, by the time fall hits, have been in the home for three or four months," Chubak said. "So they have a lot of production that they have made."

You can have them safely removed, but the process is tedious.

"It's very difficult, very messy, and not too much fun because you will often get stung," said Bruce Bowen, a Hooper beekeeper. "Bees aren't very happy about their home getting destroyed."

Bees build hives wherever they can find shelter -- hollow trees, house eaves, attics, mailboxes.

If the question is whether to exterminate the bees or not, consider that honeybees are fighting for survival already.

"We need the bees, and out in nature there is definitely a decline in the honeybee," said Casey Beesley, an Ogden beekeeper. "It's really important for people to contact the beekeepers. Because without the beekeepers, we would really be in trouble. Beekeepers can ensure that their bees are safe, happy and healthy."

Honeybee populations have taken a hit; the insects are dying off at an unprecedented rate from colony collapse disorder -- the cause of death attributed to parasites, pesticides and still-unknown reasons.

"Beekeepers are losing between 30 (percent) to 40 percent of their colony every year and Utah is right on par with that, which is just not sustainable," said Danielle Downey, entomologist for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

Importance of bees

The decline of honeybees should worry everyone, according to Bowen.

"If you like to eat, it is kind of scary. Insects pollinate a lot of our food," said Bowen, who runs Bowen Bee Farms, which produces Country Meadow's Wildflower Honey.

Honey production is not the only industry that would suffer if the honeybee population dwindles even more. Downey said honeybees have become an integral part in today's agriculture system.

"It's estimated that we rely on honeybees for about one-third of out diet. So one of every three bites of food was pollinated by honeybees," Downey said.

Almonds, for example, can be pollinated only by honeybees.

Many of those in the beekeeping business have shifted their focus from producing honey to leasing their hives for pollinating crops.

Removal

Hives are not easy to remove.

You need to find the proverbial needle among 50,000 bees in this haystack.

"What you have to do is locate the queen," Beesley said. "And once you have the queen, the rest of them will follow. They will follow her like a magnet because she releases a pheromone."

Finding a willing beekeeper to take on the task is tough because of insurance concerns and potential damage. Most beekeepers will at least know who to refer you to. (Find a list at www.utahbeekeepers.com.)

The damage is not from the bees -- Chubak said it's the wax and the honey that can cause damage. Plus, there's the additional damage caused by getting to the hive in the first place.

"I have known a hive to produce as much as 10 to 12 gallons of honey in one season," Chubak said.

The decision to leave a beehive alone or have it removed should not be taken lightly, Chubak said.

Hives that are found in the yard away from people can still be a problem when the bees eventually branch off -- to the neighbor's house.

Chubak recently found hives that covered 12 square feet in a residence because the owner procrastinated about removing them.

"I have seen enough that if you leave (a hive) unchecked, then it's going to be a really, really bad scenario."

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