Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Swarm of bees gives youngster up-close lesson in natural science

June 13, 2007

Twelve-year-old Amanda Mast saw something in her back yard this weekend she'd never seen in real life: a swarm of about 15,000 bees.

"I was just looking out the window and noticed something really dark in our small tree," Amanda said this week. "I finally realized it was bees."

The swarm -- or bee ball -- had settled on the small dogwood in the back yard of her parents' home on Deerview Terrace.

Amanda's father, Paul Mast, said the bees were close together -- in a group about the size of a basketball -- sitting in the tree. Paul Mast quickly placed a call to Tonganoxie beekeeper Kevin Freeman to come out and remove the bees.

Freeman, an amateur beekeeper, said he was glad to be of service.

Wearing protective gear, Freeman said he simultaneously pulled back a limb on the tree and held a cardboard box underneath. When he let the limb loose, the majority of the swarm wound up inside the box.

The bees were fairly docile, Freeman said, noting he took them to his house, where his daughter had prepared a hive, complete with sugar water, for the bees' new home.

Freeman returned to the Mast's house Monday night to find the remaining bees a little more aggressive.

"We killed what was left," Freeman said. "We must have got the queen (Sunday), because if they're without the queen, they get aggressive."

Freeman now hopes the bees will take to their new home and produce a crop of honey, though he said it probably would be next year before the hive will yield any of the nectar.

He said bee swarms aren't terribly uncommon. Generally, a queen bee will leave its home before a new queen hatches, taking with it about half of the swarm.

In the case of the bees at the Masts' house, Freeman said he suspected the bees were stopping on their way to finding a new place for a hive. He said he didn't think the dogwood was a good spot for their final home because it was only about 4 feet off the ground and most hives are 10 to 12 feet up.

For Amanda, who is home-schooled, the up-close lesson in nature was exciting.

"I've only seen them on TV before," she said.

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