Written by Mark Mayes, June 7, 2013
Lansing State Journal
Kathy Mascoli called me in the hope I could help rid her of pests — pests she wanted no part of but was sure the right people might welcome.
The Mason woman said the honeybees outside her door had to go but she didn’t want to exterminate them because of concerns their numbers already are dropping dangerously low. She wondered if I could help her find someone willing to take them away alive.
As it turns out, she may have her choice of takers.
Zachary Huang, a bee expert and associate professor at Michigan State University, said beekeepers are paying higher prices these days because they are losing more of the flying insects during the winter than in the past. Some beekeepers take honeybees for free — or charge a fee if the hive is hidden and more complicated to remove.
“It would be a win-win situation,” Huang said.
There even is a ready resource for tracking down a beekeeper. The Michigan Beekeepers’ Association’s website (www.michiganbees.org) has a page dedicated to swarm removal. The page features contact information for several local beekeepers who are willing to remove unwanted honeybee swarms, mostly from outside trees and buildings.
Huang said honeybees are not generally aggressive. He usually advises people to leave them alone. But if they must go, people should consider removal over extermination, Huang said.
While a 15 percent winter bee loss usually is seen as acceptable, some beekeepers have been experiencing a 40 percent loss in recent years, he said. That means beekeepers have to buy more bees from out of state and have to charge higher fees to fruit growers who rely on bees for pollination, he said. That could, in turn, lead to higher fruit prices over time, Huang said.
The reasons behind the population decline are many, including varroa mites, parasites and pesticides, he said.
Dean Cross of Lansing, who is listed as one of the local beekeepers who remove bees, has seen more interest in the service in recent years. But he stressed that beekeepers only want honeybees, which are large with yellow and brown stripes. He also believes much of the local population decline is due to so many honeybees being shipped to California almond growers, who pay top dollar for the buzzers.