Honey Bee Swarm Rescue Helps Bees Get Back On Their Six Feet

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Derenda Miller of Warsaw, was taken aback on April 28th when she discovered a huge swarm of honey bees attached to a tree in her front yard. She thought there were at least 10,000 and found out later that there were many more. She called a friend of hers who had bees and asked what she should do. The friend sent her husband, Keith Johnson, a member of the Benton County Honey Bee Swarm Rescue and Removal group, over to harvest the swarm.
“It was amazing to watch,” said Miller. “Keith didn’t have any protective clothing except some latex gloves, and he put his hand into the swarm with no harm done. He said that the bees swarm when they are looking for a new home and since they have no baby bees, or hive to protect, they have no reason to sting. The whole procedure of transferring the bees into a nuc box for transfer to a new home only took about 45 minutes. The helper bees made a ladder so others in the swarm could go into a hole in the nuc box. It was the coolest experience.  The bees were crawling over me and I wasn’t afraid.  They emitted a lemon scent that their glands produce to entice other bees to join their swarm.”
Miller said that Johnson found an old hive in the tree that the bees were leaving for the purpose of starting a new hive. The bees usually take everything they need from the old hive which  is necessary to start a new hive. She said that she is now a great admirer of bees and glad they can be rescued instead of exterminated because they have an important purpose. 
“I learned that queens are born first,” said Miller. “They hatch after four days and become pupae. Then after a total of 16 days after they are laid, they are queens. Worker bees take 21 days to become their destined form of bee.”
Keith Johnson and his friend Matt Corpening are honey bee hobbyists who have been interested in the insects for many years. They recently put together a Facebook page called Benton County Honey Bee Swarm Rescue and Removal to “spread awareness of the importance of honey bees.” They know that the swarm season is upon us and want people to know that if someone happens to come across a swarm of honey bees, he or she can contact Johnson or Corpening at any time so they can try and relocate the bees to a safe place. The two men would also like to eventually band together with other local beekeepers and enthusiasts in the area. Hopefully by doing this they can help each other to more effectively manage honey bee colonies. 
“In addition to the swarm in Derenda Miller’s yard, we had another call early in May about a swarm that had clustered in a ball around the queen and answered the call for help,” said Corpening. “We had a pre-made box with frames and honeycomb and just sat it next to them. Sometimes people will lay down a trail of honey leading to the nuc box. When they swarm, they are looking for a new home. They eat all the honey in the old hive and are swelled up and big as they look for their new home. We like to rescue a swarm, place it in a hive box and give it a new place to call home. Sometimes we can split the swarm into two hives. We sometimes use a swarm to boost the population of another hive. I take some of the swarms that I rescue to some land that belongs to my father in the northern part of the county. Like many bee enthusiasts, my experience is passed down through generations. I also took a course on bee keeping. I have been rescuing bee swarms for five years, and Keith has been in the business a year.”
Corpening said that he only works with honey bees, and that there are three kinds in Missouri including Italian, Carniolan and Russian honey bees.
“I started beekeeping last year when a swarm showed up on April 12, 2017, in my back yard,” said Johnson. “I called my neighbor, Matt Corpening, and he helped me collect the swarm. The new hive has been successful and I have expanded my numbers. I did a “cut out” for a farmer out of the county who had called an exterminator, but found that it would cost him $500 to kill the bees, but they would still be in his building. I told him not to kill the bees – and that I would get them. I brought home these swarming bees and extended my apiary. A friend who is a master beekeeper said the “cut out” that I did was a very advanced project for me. I had four hives going into this last winter and lost one colony. Since the winter, I have rehomed the swarm in Warsaw, and my youngest daughter and I went to Harrisville and brought home another swarm.  I am doing a mating nuc which involves a small colony of honey bees. I initially thought that I would teach after retiring from my current (day) job, but now think I would like to do beekeeping. They are fascinating to me, and are an escape from reality.”
Johnson said he wants to promote the coalition of beekeepers who might be available to help rescue swarms and give them a better chance at survival.  He said the bees who are on their own have about a 40 to 50 percent chance of survival. When they are rescued and placed in a safe place their survival chances rise.
According to www.sustainweb.org, globally there are more honey bees than other types of bees and pollinating insects, so they are the world’s most important pollinators of food crops. Local honey is also said to be good for wound healing and help for allergies, but not good for babies under the age of one year.
Until a time when a contact portion is added to the Facebook page for the honeybee group, those who need help with rescuing a swarm of honey bees may call 660-723-3146 and Johnson or Corpening will do what they can to help.  It is also possible to call the dispatch center at 911 if need be.