What's the buzz? / A black cloud of bees descended on a Riverdale store Tuesday, and then things got a little sticky

Jul 7 2009 - 11:14pm

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(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Josh Bell works to remove a swarm of bees from the front of Crown Bedroom store in Riverdale
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Josh Bell works to remove a swarm of bees from the front of Crown Bedroom store in Riverdale

RIVERDALE -- Dave Vance looked out the window of Crown Elite Bedrooms and was shocked at what he saw headed toward him.

"It was literally a huge black cloud," Vance said. "I was standing inside the front door and I could see them swarming right toward the building."

Nearly 50,000 honey bees paid the store a visit about 11 a.m. Tuesday, gathering on the brick wall and fixating themselves right next to the front door of the building at 880 W. Riverdale Road.

"I looked out the window of the bank and saw a huge black cloud in the air," said Stephanie Smith, manager of Wells Fargo Bank, located next door. "They had been flying around the bank and hitting into our windows and then all of a sudden they gathered and swarmed toward the Crown building."

Crown Elite Bedrooms owner Ed O'Brien posted a sign on the front door directing customers to use an alternate entrance to the building. Then, he said, he went outside to spray. When he saw they were honeybees, he decided to call the city.

"There were thousands of them and they were honeybees. I didn't want to kill them. They're too valuable, so I called the city and then called in a beekeeper," O'Brien said.

Josh Bell, of Plain City, is an independent beekeeper who captures honeybees and takes them home to produce honey.

"Oh yeah, there are at least 40,000 to 50,000 bees here," Bells said, as he put on his white protective suit and beekeeping hat. "They're European honeybees and right now they are scouting for a new home. It's hard to tell where they came from. They could have come from a few feet away or even next door."

Bell said the bees were full of honey and were gathering on the wall because that's where the queen bee was dwelling. As soon as he could get her in the box, he said, the rest would follow.

"He is one brave person," said Dr. Grace O'Brien, who was at the scene with her husband and son.

As Bell brushed the bees into a cardboard box with a paint brush, thousands swarmed around his head but eventually followed the queen into the box.

"There are at least 10 pounds worth of bees here," he said. "This is the biggest swarm I have ever seen. It sucks when they figure out how to go up your pant leg too."

According to pollinatethis.org, honeybees are essential in the pollination of fruits and vegetables, especially melons, eggplants, cherries, blueberries and strawberries. Since 2006, however, there has been a sudden decline in the population. The underlying cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, in which bees suddenly disappear, is not yet known.

"I'll take them home and make honey and use it for food storage," Bell said. "Honey lasts forever and you can always use it as a substitute for sugar."

Vance said he didn't know why the bees chose the store as a place to settle.

"I don't know, I guess it's because Crown Bedrooms is the number one place to be right now," he said.

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