Hmmm, could that buzzing noise in the garage be Apis mellifera?
As the summer has progressed, one honeybee nest removal professional says Eden Prairie, and other areas of the Twin Cities, are experiencing an increase in honeybee infestations.
Alex King belongs to the Board of Directors at MN Hobby Beekeepers, an 501(c)5 non-profit educational organization devoted to practicing and educating the public on safe beekeeping practices. He performs extractions on a call-to-call basis.
According to King his bee nest removals have increased. “Three years ago, I did one call to Eden Prairie during my whole season. Last year I did not have any.”
This year has been different. “I have done five removals in Eden Prairie with additional calls that I did not hear back on,” said King.
King said the number of bee nest removal differs yearly. This year the numbers are up in Eden Prairie and in surround area.
He said a mild winter may have contributed to the increase. “Many hobby beekeepers experienced a second year beehive for the first time, and the warm spring caused a lot of swarming.”
King says that scout bees, the assigned procurers of a home for their hive, return to their swarm and communicate with the other bees their findings. They communicate via the “waggle dance,” which gives directions to the site the scout is advocating. After visiting the site, the bees communicate their approval or disapproval of the proposed site via their own waggle dance, of which more repetitions means more enthusiasm.
The same principle applies when the initial scout gives the directions, as the more the dance is repeated, the more scouts ship out to see the site. Once a consensus in enthusiasm is reached through the dancing, the bees move in.
Location, location, location
He states that honeybees tend to look for “cavities with 5-10 gallons of volume.” Some common areas on a house include the soffits along the roof line, or the spaces between floor joists near windows. “Oftentimes, a rodent will make a small hole in a corner of a window frame and open the cavity when doing so.”
In general, he says that “empty places in a state of deferred maintenance” are attractive. On occasion, bees will even be found in the walls of a home; more rarely due to insulation, but possible considering “pests can open the cavity up which allows bees to move in.”
In the wake of the extraction process, the bees are transferred to the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab, which spearheads Minnesota’s bee conservation efforts.
Though he does not work closely with the university past the point of transferring the bees, King says his understanding is that “much of the work they do with honeybees revolves around solving issues beekeepers face with parasites like Varroa Mite and other diseases.”
He noted that honeybees are not technically considered endangered as they are a domesticated animal (like cows or chickens). He underscored, however, that honeybees face numerous issues “from pesticides, parasites, colony collapse disorder, and other diseases.”
As for what people can do to help preserve the species locally, King cites the use of neonics (neonicotinoids) pesticides as the primary threat to the honeybee population, which includes clothianidin, acetamiprid, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam.
“These are commonly used on plants to stop other pests, however the bees come in contact with them during pollination and bring them back to the hive. Pesticides do not immediately kill the bees, but instead weaken the hive causing it to die out over the winter.”
Planting pollinator gardens is another surefire way to help not just honeybees but all pollinators. King recommends the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources program Lawns to Legumes, which gives out grants yearly to homeowners to offset some of the costs of doing a pollinator planting.
It is a ”great resource for homeowners” said King which also has planting lists available for homeowners to reference.