After hearing complaints from her daughter about bugs outside, Bev Christensen was mortified to find an oversized colony of honey bees living in her attic in April 2018.
Initially mistaking the bees for wasps, Christensen said she called an exterminator in horror.
“It was really creepy,” she said. “There was a scene in Amityville Horror where there’s a bunch of flies. it had been like that.”
After learning the guests in her attic were actually honey bees, however, Christensen instead called a swarm rescue specialist to get rid of the bees. She said she did so because she knew how important bees are to humans and other species.
After her Los Gatos home was freed from bees, Christensen decided that she wanted to stay the rescued hive in her yard, following the trend of backyard beekeeping within the Bay Area. Christensen differs from other urban beehive owners, though, as her neighbor manages the hives for her.
“I wanted them within the yard because I wanted to try to to our part,” she said. “I wanted to create sure we saved them and hopefully could give them an honest home where they might thrive. I’ve learned plenty about bees. They’re very intelligent. It’s amazing how they’re able to do what they are doing.”
Although Christensen doesn't wish to become a beekeeper, she said she was inspired by the bees in her home and also the ability of a swarm rescuer to calmly extract the honey bees without full protective gear. almost like Christensen, many Bay Area citizens value the importance of bees and proper swarm rescue. Many of those citizens are backyard beekeepers and swarm rescuers.
President of the city Valley Beekeepers Guild, Elizabeth Victor greets about one third of the Guild’s 350 and counting active members on the primary Monday of every month for Bee Guild meetings.
Victor said that the bulk of the members of the city Guild were backyard beekeepers. Backyard beekeeping has become popular among Bay Area residents in recent years as more communities, including San Jose, urban center and Monte Sereno, began to permit the practice. Large bee guilds like Santa Clara’s will be found in most other Bay Area counties.
With more beehives, however, comes more swarms. Beehives naturally swarm, the method by which a replacement colony is made. Thus, because the number of beekeepers within the Bay Area increases, the number of swarms reasonably increases. Swarms occur when a bee colony runs out of space and an oversized portion of the hive’s bees leave with the old queen to seek out a replacement home because the remaining bees produce a replacement queen. Though many folks are intimidated by swarms of bees, Bay Area residents have more rescuers than ever available to soundly remove swarms.
Victor said swarm rescue is a very important aspect of the city Bee Guild. The Guild offers hands-on swarm rescue classes to its members.
“We train up to 40 to 50 beekeepers per annum to travel out and capture the bees,” she said. “We must teach them the way to have sex in an exceedingly safe manner that protects the homeowner, protects the general public and protects the beekeeper. We show all kinds of different techniques and the way to assemble them into a hive or a swarm box.”
The city Bee Guild includes a listing of 53 local swarm rescuers who have taken the swarm removal class. Many are volunteer rescuers who remove swarms free. Other Bay Area county bee guilds, like those of Santa Cruz, town and Sonoma, even have large lists of swarm rescuers on their websites.
Art Hall, one amongst the instructors of the two-hour Bee Guild swarm rescue class, said there only wont to be about 10 active swarm rescuers to hide all of city county when he started swarm removal roughly 15 years ago.
Hall said he appreciates the additions of fellow swarm rescuers because he doesn't want Bay Area citizens to fear swarms.
“Bees are the scariest looking in an exceedingly swarm,” he said. “There are thousands and thousands of bees, and they’re all flying in what appears to be random directions, and you’re sure they’re actually trying to find you to sting you. Nothing can be farther from the reality.”
Even though swarms may now be seen more frequently within the Bay Area because of the upper numbers of amateur beekeepers, Hall said swarms are nothing to be terrified of, and bees are in their least defensive state while at a pull-off in an exceedingly swarm.
Swarm rescuer Mike Stang teaches the Bee Guild’s swarm removal class alongside Hall. He said he got interested in swarm removal because many folks are terrified of bees.
“People do strange things after they see a swarm,” Stang said. “They spray them with water, or they’ll attempt to poison them to create them depart. My job is to not let that happen and to urge them as soon as possible.”
Stang said swarm rescuers help educate the general public on the character of bees and what to try to to when there's a swarm nearby. Victor and Hall said they think people are commencing to recognize the importance of bees as pollinators and also the must protect the species, resulting in more swarm removal calls and fewer attempts to poison swarms.
Stang rescued 93 swarms in 2017 and 103 swarms in 2018, his biggest year. He said beekeepers are wanting to rescue swarms, in part, because many Bay Area cities have changed their backyard beekeeping policies to be more lenient, and that they don't want these laws reversed to the strict, old ways.
Steve Demkowski, 72, works at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo and teaches beekeeping to kids in an exceedingly 4-H class. Demkowski said that swarm rescuers are important because there are few hollow trees, and rescuers must capture swarms while they're still go in the open before they're going into a building and become tougher to get rid of.
Demkowski additionally said beekeepers should protect swarms, which are usually made by colonies that have survived the winter, and since beekeepers are losing over 40 percent of their bees during the winter season, the genetics in swarms should be preserved.
“One swarm that I came the autumn was about the dimensions of a softball, really small,” Demkowski said. “I nursed it throughout the winter because there was no way it'd have survived. But the subsequent year, that small swarm produced 400 pounds of honey. it had been one amongst my best hives.”
Both Stang and Hall noted a financial motive for swarm removal which could also explain the recent increase in Bay Area swarm rescuers. Hall said he was initially drawn to swarm rescue for financial reasons.
“It’s free bees for people who lost their bees during the winter,” Stang said. “Most beekeepers will retrieve a swarm free, and they’ll take them home and keep them for themselves.”
Stang said he rescues many swarms and donates many of them to 4-H children and beekeepers who may have difficulty retrieving swarms. He also sells certain swarms.
Stang said swarm rescue provides financial benefits to amateur beekeepers looking to adopt a hive in addition.
“Beekeeping will be expensive to urge started,” he said. “That swarm could be a great way to urge them going, because it’s cheap. If you get a box of bees, it will be anywhere from $150 to $250 easy.”
Stang said swarm removal provides benefits to the general public, beginning beekeepers and also the swarm rescuer. He enjoys teaching new beekeepers and swarm rescuers thanks to their potential to teach Bay Area citizens about honey bees, additionally to a more personal reason.
“I prefer to attempt to help people because i would like them to experience the eagerness and also the love for honey bees that i've got,” he said. “It’s really a spiritual thing to figure with honey bees.”