Tough summer for bees

By the numbers in recent weeks, the amount of rainfall has been heavy.

However, that has caused the numbers to be low when it comes to the bee world.

Bees are important to humans, animals and plants, according to the American Beekeeeping Federation, because as honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries, are 90 percent dependent on honey bee pollination. One crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination.

Typically, the beekeepers, especially hobbyists who are members of the Mid-Ohio Valley Beekeepers Association, across the region are called upon to remove swarms and hives when they might cause a problem or are in a living space, such as a house.

“We suit up,” said Teresa Wagner, a member of the Beekeepers Association who lives in Boaz, W.Va. “We take a new hive box. It depends on how big the swarm is. If it’s way up in the tree, we take a telescoping pole, hoist it up and knock the bees into a bucket, or we’ll take a ladder. That’s more dangerous. If it can be knocked down into the box, we’ll leave them in the box until dark.”

If the queen is in there, leaving them until dark gives the hive time to “hear” from its queen where she is, so they can navigate back to the rest of the hive.

If there is no queen, both Wagner and beekeeper Sam Hammett agree, the hive has to be mixed with another hive that does have a queen.

Wagner said that has to be done gingerly to give the two hives time to acclimate to each other.

Hammett, of 620 Deming Road, Barlow, said he has responded to only two calls to remove bees this year.

The biggest problem has been the lack of food for the bees, he said.

“The amount of rain and the continued rain, the pollen and the nectar gets washed off, and it takes a day or two to refurbish,” Hammett said. “Then, we get another rain. I’ve been feeding them sugar water because there’s not enough to eat. This usually happens in the July-August time frame.”

Hammett said he mixes a quart-jar of sugar water to keep the bees from starving and replaces it when it is empty.

Wagner said she has had several calls from residents about bees hanging around the feeders of hummingbirds.

The first rule is, she said: Don’t spray Raid.

“Bees are in a dearth,” Wagner said. “There’s not an abundance of nectar out there. Honeybees smell the sugar water in the feeders, and they think there must be a way in.”