‘Prolific’ swarm season keeping beekeepers busy in Pittsburgh region

·2 min read

Beekeepers are calling this spring a “prolific” swarm season for honeybees.

“This is probably one of the busiest swarm seasons that I can recall in the last five to ten years,” said Alyssa Fine, owner of Pittsburgh Honey.

Fine operates a retail shop in Squirrel Hill, but also educates the community on honeybees, and collects swarms for people in the community.

“We field phone calls, and if we’re not able to respond directly, we do have a cooperative group, dozens of beekeepers throughout that region, that will oftentimes respond and hopefully rehome, re-hive those swarms,” she said.

As of late, they’ve been receiving an average of six to eight calls a day, especially on the warmer days.

“When we have an extended stretch of very warm temperatures and things are blooming, the bees are really getting access to pollen and nectar,” she said. “They’re building up very quickly.”

But the spring temperatures aren’t the only factor. In fact, experts say the mild winter we experienced is predominantly responsible for the significant amount of swarms.

According to Robyn Underwood, an apiculture educator with Penn State Extension, bees have a harder time surviving a harsh winter.

“They’re kind of just biding their time,” Underwood explained. “And if they’re a little bit sick from parasites or viruses, and then you add the cold or pesticides, that’s when they can die. So, if one of those stresses is less, like temperature, then they’re more likely to survive.”

Underwood explained that a swarm is a “form of reproduction.”

“A swarm is a hive’s way of reproducing and splitting, so it’s just a hive that’s in transition of moving to a new location,” said Fine.

She urges anyone who comes across a swarm to avoid panicking and to call a beekeeper to safely collect the bees.

“Honeybees are very important to our ecosystem,” she said. “Please protect them at all costs.”

Underwood said that people can find local clubs through the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association.

Pittsburgh Honey can be reached at 412-407-2705. Fine also said that people can typically contact their local police department if coming across a swarm.

This week, Pittsburgh Honey assisted the Bridgeville Police Department, after a sergeant came across a swarm.

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