As temperatures rise and bees emerge from their hives, Dru Spinuzzi hopes to receive many phone calls from complete strangers in the Pueblo area.
“I’m the swarm commander for Pueblo County, Rocky Ford, La Junta, Cañon City, all of southern Colorado, really,” she told The Chieftain one late spring morning in his garden near Pueblo City Park, as the bees buzzed. and on two hives.
“At this time of year the bees are swarming and if the people of Pueblo see a swarm they should call me,” she said.
Spinuzzi will pass details of the swarm to trained members of the Pueblo County Beekeeping Association who have signed up for the chance to go out and save swarms, she said.
“The call comes to me, and then that swarm is released and we can save the bees,” she explained. “People are looking forward to having these swarms because they are free bees.”
After:Beekeepers prepare for swarming season
Swarming can seem scary, with large clusters of bees, sometimes weighing 10 pounds or more, congregating on a tree or log after leaving their hive en masse. But it’s an essential process in which a colony of honey bees goes in search of a home after outgrowing its hive, according to Spinuzzi and other bee experts.
“The old queen will take the whole hive with her and they will swarm,” Spinuzzi said. “Before that, the scout bees will go looking for a new home. It is a natural process. They might swarm on a tree or a log, but we beekeepers will go out and collect those swarms and put them in a hive and save them.
What swarming isn’t is what it’s depicted in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons, where swarms angrily go after Christopher Robin’s bear friend.
“When they are in a swarm, they are very docile. You can stick your hands in the middle of a swarm,” although that’s not recommended, “and you won’t get stung,” Spinuzzi said. “They’re really sweet when they’re looking for a new home.”
Getting a swarm out of a tree usually takes an expert about an hour, she said. The bees have a new home and the beekeepers have new bees.
Do not spray swarms
Spinuzzi stressed that swarms of bees should not be sprayed with pesticides. Neither should the plants they collect pollen from, including weeds like dandelions.
“Dandelions are the first flower they pollinate, so we encourage people not to kill dandelions or spray them,” she said.
“Pesticides harm bees. Whether you think it’s safe or not, the bees can climb on it and bring it back to the hive, and it will kill the whole hive.
Scientists have named pesticides as a leading cause of mass bee deaths, according to Environment America, which runs fan-funded campaigns to put the environment first and make the United States cleaner and healthier. greener.
“Without bees, we wouldn’t eat lettuce,” Spinuzzi said. “They are pollinators. We need bees to pollinate our crops and keep them growing. »
What to do when you see a swarm
The number to call when a swarm is spotted is 719-250-3441.
Anyone interested in trying beekeeping in the Pueblo area is encouraged to sign up at pueblocountybeekeepersassociation.com or their Facebook page, facebook.com/PCBeekeeping.
The group meets monthly on the third Thursday of each month, including April 21, at the Lamb Branch Library. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
“Join the club to educate yourself before you buy bees,” Spinuzzi said. “You can’t just buy bees and expect to know how to take care of them. It is an agricultural activity. You need to be educated and have a mentor, and we offer free mentorship where an experienced beekeeper will come and help you get started and help you with any questions you may have.
“One last thing: beekeeping is not cheap. It’s very, very expensive and if you lose a hive, you lose money.
Karin Zeitvogel can be contacted at [email protected]