New bee group forms

Published 9:26 pm Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hive: Bees buzz in and out of a hive on beekeeper Steve Black’s property last spring. A group of local beekeepers has formed the Nansemond Beekeepers’ Association.

With spring approaching, the newly formed Nansemond Beekeepers’ Association is reminding area residents of the best way to handle a swarm on their property.

“We’re trying to get the word out for people to not spray them, but call one of the beekeeping clubs and have someone come out to retrieve them,” said Pat Knight, swarm coordinator for the Nansemond Beekeepers’ Association.

The new organization formed a couple months ago. Most Suffolk apiarists — or bee enthusiasts — have been members of the Tidewater Beekeepers’ Association, which met in Chesapeake. Other such organizations met in Hampton and Southampton County.

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But, Knight said, “There wasn’t really one local. We had to drive to another location in order to be involved.”

With so many Suffolk residents interested in beekeeping, and interest still growing, the area residents decided to form their own club. About 35 people attended the last meeting.

“We were very pleased,” she said. “There were a lot of us that had interest.” Area honeybees have suffered in recent years from unusually cold winters and a mysterious occurrence known as Colony Collapse Disorder, when all the bees in a hive abruptly disappear or die for no apparent reason.

That’s what makes proper treatment of a swarm that much more important, Knight said.

Bees swarm when the population in a particular hive is more than it can support. The worker bees, along with a new queen, leave to find a new hive, trying to carry as much honey with them as possible.

“When honeybees are swarming, they (normally) won’t sting you,” Knight said.

People who see a honeybee swarm on their property are encouraged to call one of the local clubs to remove it. In most cases, the service is free, but a fee might be charged if the bees are inside the home, such as under the roof or in a wall, because of the extra labor involved.

Knight said protecting the bees is vital to agriculture in the area, because crops are fertilized by bees.

“There’s lots of activities to promote and sustain the honeybee,” Knight said. “They’ve been under attack the last few years.”

Knight has been encouraged lately to see more young people becoming interested in beekeeping. That’s another reason they formed the local club, she said — it’s harder for young people to get to meetings outside the city.

The Nansemond Beekeepers Association meets the second Tuesday of every month at Oakland Christian Church in Chuckatuck at 6:30 p.m. “Anyone’s invited,” Knight said. “You don’t have to join. You can just come to the meeting and get information.”

To have a swarm removed, call Knight at 377-8341.