honeybees, honeybee swarm

We all likely watched episodes of old black-and-white TV shows, and if the series featured a traditional family in a suburb where nothing burned, no one had bathrooms, and generally nothing bad ever happened—more often than not, if the series ever featured firemen, they were not putting out fires but rescuing cats stuck in trees. And now firemen will forever be remembered jokingly as the guys who rescue poor cats from trees (for better or worse). So, if firemen rescue cats, what do police officers get? As far as Troy PD is concerned, the answer is honeybees—for better or worse.

Within the past week, the police of Troy, a city in Detroit’s northern suburbs, responded to a report regarding “an issue with bees,” and according to a police news release, that issue was a “massive” swarm (8lbs by their accounts) of honeybees clumped in a small tree. And while a swarm is not necessarily a problem, “heavy pedestrian traffic was passing back and forth near the swarm, creating a hazard.” Luckily, these officers recognized the fact of honeybee populations dwindling and rather than contacting an exterminator, the officers reached out to local honeybee experts.

Later that day, a local beekeeper arrived and captured the swarm for relocation to a honeybee farm twenty minutes away. For their efforts and their priority to save the honeybees rather than eliminate them, the officers have received much praise from the community, with a posting on the police Facebook page bringing in most of it. In spite of this praise, one local bee expert, Roger Sutherland, has said such reports risk “inflaming the public.” As a member and past president of the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association, Sutherland stated, “There’s nothing to be excited about a swarm of bees. They’re very, very calm.”

This calm behavior Sutherland mentions comes in large part from the fact of the bees being in between homes and looking for a more permanent location. Specifically, swarming is a process for when a hive becomes overcrowded during reproduction in spring without enough honey stores, prompting half of the bees and a newborn queen to leave and create a new home and colony. “They don’t have a home to defend. They’re the most gentle things in the world [at that point],” Sutherland said of the swarm, which he believes consisted of about 30,000-40,000 bees and weighed about three pounds (as is typical).

Despite honeybee swarms being mostly docile, the association’s website and Sutherland do recommend people contact a beekeeper as soon as they can, so a beekeeper can safely remove the swarm to a less populated area or honeybee farm. It can take a few hours or even a few days for honeybees to find a new home, but if they don’t, they might build a nest at the swarm location—hence why caution is always warranted.

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