OTE - Oregon Travel Experience

Local honey-makers land in rest area

Posted on: May 2nd, 2016 by Madeline MacGregor in News & Press | No Comments

Swarm of bees captures attention

bee3Southern Oregon is no stranger to honeybee shortages. According to a University of Maryland study, beekeepers across the nation lost more than 40% of their colonies in 2015, and Oregon suffered an approximate 20% domestic colony loss over the study’s one year span. In addition to domestic honey production colony disorders, wild honeybee populations are declining across 2016. According to a University of Vermont national wild bee map, a distinct shortage of pollinators is shown in southwestern Oregon.

So what exactly do bees have to do with Oregon Travel Experience? A recent visit from a swarm of bees settled into the northbound truck lane at Manzanita Rest Area (north of Grants Pass on I-5). OTE’s Andrew Nonnenmacher, a rest area specialist, recognized that the bees would be considered quite valuable to a beekeeper.

“I emailed the Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association (SOBA),” said Nonnenmacher. “Within minutes, I received a telephone call from a local beekeeper, Marianne Heater. She asked me a few questions about the location of the swarm and said she would be right over.”

Nonnenmacher cordoned off the swarm from rest area visitors to ensure that no one was stung accidentally.

“When Marianne arrived, we walked right up to the swarm. She indicated that it looked as though the bees were searching for a good place to locate a new hive, so the removal process would not be a problem,” Nonnenmacher explained.

“She scooped some of the bees into a bee box with a bit of food, and it didn’t take long for the rest of the swarm to follow their ‘roommates’ into the box.”

Swarming is a behavior that honeybees exhibit in the late spring or early summer as a way of propagating the species. When a colony becomes large enough, it may divide in half, and the queen bee flies off, taking up to half of the colony with her, in search of a new home.

While they’re looking for new “housing,” honeybee swarms may make brief stopovers on tree branches, walls, road signs or other objects. Their appearance (a clustering formation of stinging insects) can be menacing, but according to experts, honeybees are at their safest when exhibiting swarming behavior. Swarming bees have no nest and no stores of honey to defend, and they tend to be at their most docile.

Kudos to Andrew Nonnenmacher, for recognizing that bee swarms are of high importance to beekeepers, and for contacting SOBA. OTE wishes to extend our gratitude to Marianne Heater for her rapid response to our call for help. The bees should be nestled into their new home by now and busy contributing to the pollination of local crops.

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