This is like someone buying you underwear as a gift. It’s something you need but you don’t really want. We have new residents in our home. Well, our tree really. It is a colony of honey bees and they seem to be quite comfortable.
A swarm of bees is pretty intimidating and that picture isn’t exactly a comfort to most. There are a few groups who are going to look at it differently. The average person could say, “Holy crap, that’s a lot of bees – kill ’em quick!” That response is unfortunately too common and it really stems from unawareness of bee importance plus a general fear of getting stung. I used to think this way too, don’t get me wrong, but over the last few years I’ve become more intimate with the fragile relationship our world has with honeybees, Niagara in particular.
Life without honey bees would stink. About a third of the food we eat comes from bee pollination. If bees died out in the Niagara Region, we would lose most, if not all, of our fruit. We’d have to replace these crops with more hardy, wind-pollinated plants, but who could go on without eating another apple, peach or cherry? That means no pie either and I just can’t handle that kind of future. Mmmm… pie.
There are several theories about why bees are dying off in Niagara and, in an effort to address one specific theory, in 2009 Ontario instituted a ban on cosmetic pesticides and herbicides. Pesticides are one of the major threats to pollinators and the entire Niagara region is hoping this ban helps bring back bee colonies (regardless of what our lawns look like).
So what are we doing about our bee colony? I contacted a few local beekeepers and associations to ask if they wanted to adopt our new bee family. I don’t think I would have received a better response if I had yelled “Free Money” from the roof of our house. If there is one group that is completely responsive and engaging in the community, it is Niagara’s beekeepers. Unfortunately, after discussing our situation at length, it became clear that the Queen Bee was located too deep into the tree for a local beekeeper to move the colony. So, it was now up to us to either drive them out, kill them or live with it.
The easier solution would be to live with them, but when I spoke to a beekeeper about our bees, she asked if their colony was the size of a football field. Huh?! Apparently bee colonies can reach up to 60,000 in size and this isn’t exactly well suited to a backyard. So, eviction then…
With their advice and information, I was able to formulate a plan. Almond Oil and Tea Tree Oil when applied to the entrance/exit of an opening is supposed to drive them out. Kind of like an herbal eviction notice. I ran off to the store to buy my weapons.
Dan and I got up early in the morning to begin the spraying process. There are fewer of them in the morning and I didn’t want to drive them out at night since as cold-blooded creatures they need the sunlight warmth to get their flight muscles to work. So we sprayed carefully around the entrance making sure to avoid spraying a bee directly. That kept on until we ran out of supplies and all we could smell was Tea Tree Oil.
The verdict? See for yourself…
We still have bees. However, it looks like now that they’ve set up their hive within the tree and the Queen is cozy, we are not seeing the numbers we did during their moving day.
For now, we are living with our honey bees. Fortunately they are quite high up on the tree so it is much easier to do so. Niagara honey bees are too important to kill and as long as we keep a watchful eye on their numbers, we can co-exist quite happily.
I’d like to invite everyone to do their part. If you have honey bees, please do not kill them. There are several people that have made it their passion to help. The best thing you can do is contact the bee hotline at 905-834-5228.
Save pie. Don’t swat a bee.