Kansans busy helping bees relocate

HUTCHINSON — Bees around central Kansas seem all abuzz in recent days.

It's typical behavior this time of year as they try to find a new summer home after months in hibernation, said Stacy Rogers of Mount Hope, who with her husband, Wes, removes bee swarms from structures and trees around central Kansas.

However, for those who happen upon a new colony pulsating with life, it can be a shocking sight.

Around 8 a.m. Tuesday, Steve Nachtigal arrived at New Hope Counseling Services on South Main Street in Hutchinson to find bees swarming around a boarded-up window at his business.

While some bees circled, others slipped through a crack to join thousands of other bees clustered together in a new colony between the board and the glass.

The bees took up residence on the window sometime over the weekend. By Tuesday morning, bees were busy at work, building a honeycomb.

Tony Powers, an optometrist by day and a registered beekeeper, was called to remove the colony.

Dressed in a protective beekeeper suit with a veil and wire screen over a large hat, Powers removed the outside wood covering the glass. Then he used a special vacuum and sucked the colony up, and transported it to a private pasture out in the country.

"It's nothing unusual," Powers said. "It's typical this time of year."

Stacy Rogers' business, Bee Charmer, removes swarms and colonies that get into structures and finds places for the bees, such as an orchard, where they can happily pollinate.

"Over the winter the colony decreases, then during the spring and summer they are collecting pollen, and they often run out of room as the colony increases," Rogers said. "Half of the colony will split off, and up and move. They create a new queen. Sometimes the whole colony will move."

Overnight people will discover a swarm of bees, shaped like a football, hanging off a branch in a tree. These bees are looking for a new home.

But in the situation at the New Hope Counseling building, they got into the glass and were no longer swarming, but at home in a new colony.

"Amazing creatures" is how Jeff Wells, vice president of Advance Termite and Pest Control, describes bees. While he thinks it would seem second nature to call a beekeeper when a swarm is discovered, exterminators are the ones who generally get the call.

"They can scare the heck out of people," said Wells, whose staff has been trained to harvest a swarm. A small colony can have from 30,000 to 60,000 bees. They take them back to their office and have several beekeepers they call to come get them. With the rising cost of bees, Wells said, the beekeepers don't hesitate.

Preserving honeybees is important, Rogers said, because not only is there a shortage, but the honeybee is the Kansas state insect.