Saving the Swarm
Bonnie Adams found some swarmy visitors to her lilac bushes last month.
While backing out of her Clarks Summit driveway, she spotted a bee hive that seemingly appeared overnight. After waiting a few days, she knew she needed some help.
“We thought the swarm would disappear, but when it was still there two days later, we were afraid someone might disturb it and get stung,” Adams said. “Also, bees need all the help they can get, so we didn’t want someone to use insecticide on them.”
Knowing that honey bees are in decline —the United States Department of Agriculture says that colony collapse disorder has caused beekeepers to report a 30-90 percent loss in their populations — Adams and her partner, Marilyn Szakal, decided to spring to action to try to save the swarm.
Following a search online, they found Ellen McGlynn of South Abington Twp. McGlynn is one of the co-founders, along with Clarks Green resident Jim Davis, of the Lackawanna Backyard Beekeepers. McGlynn extracted the bees from the lilac bush, explaining that they were there attempting to scout out a new permanent home after splitting from another colony.
“It was a very simple job,” she recalled. “It was a classic swarm situation during a classic time of year. It was eye-level but required no special tools. I put on my bee suit and tapped the swarm right into the box. As long as you’re gentle in the process, a simple tap will make it fall in the box. If the queen is in the box, the other bees that are in the box will signal to the outside bees that she’s in there and the stragglers will come into the box as well.”
“When they are in a situation like that, they are scouting out a new permanent home, so it is important that the homeowners call when they see something like this because that new permanent home could be in their attic,” McGlynn added.
The lilac bush stowaways now live at Maggie Miller’s North Abington Twp. home. Miller is a chiropractor by trade but has become interested in beekeeping and wanted to have her own hive after joining the Lackawanna Backyard Beekeepers last year. McGlynn said that Adams’ and Szakal’s swarm thrust Miller into active beekeeping.
“They are my babies; I am in love,” Miller said. “The bees will be given their best chance of survival and I will do everything in my power, proactively, to keep them as healthy as naturally as possible. It is vitally important to the survival of the human species to keep the bees alive and flourishing.”
McGlynn said that part of the Lackawanna Backyard Beekeepers’ mission is to educate the public about what honeybees can do for the environment. A third of the nation’s food requires pollination and, through their loyalty to crops, honeybees have proven themselves as allies to the farming community.
“Not everybody knows to call a beekeeper,” McGlynn said. “Of course, I don’t know of the ones who haven’t called us. There could be people out there who may find a swarm and kill it with spray. In some states, though, it is so frowned upon that is may as well be illegal to kill honeybees. Exterminators now call us or other local bee clubs.”
The Lackawanna Backyard Beekeepers provide simple swarm removals, such as Adams’ and Skazal’s swarm, free-of-charge; fee-based services include building extractions with the assistance of a licensed contractor. For more information on the Lackawanna Backyard Beekeepers, call 570-468-0045 or visit lackawannabackyardbeekeepers.org.