February 18, 2014 --
Honeybee populations may be shrinking around the world but that is not the case at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.
Thousands of honeybees were found Friday when a worker opened a lid to a wooden crate outside of Building 1261 located at the south end of warehouse row.
Georgia Master Beekeeper Dale Richter was called in to assist with the removal of the entire colony including a large amount of wax honeycomb Monday morning.
He estimated there were 40,000 of the buzzing creatures, weighing an average of a tenth of a gram and about 1/2 to 5/8 inch in length, found inside the crate.
“Richter was recommended because he is considered an expert in his field and works closely with the Georgia Department of Agriculture,” Julie Robbins, natural resource manager, Environmental Branch, Installation and Environment Division, MCLB Albany, said. “We know he has the equipment to catch the whole hive alive. We also know he could have the bees tested to make sure they are not Africanized bees.”
Before approaching the crate, Richter donned his bee suit - which looks more like a space suit - and a pair of plastic gloves. He fired up his smoker, filled with smoldering pine needles, and gave the bees a couple of blasts.
The smoke makes the bees lethargic and less aggressive, according Richter.
“When bees detect smoke, they think the hive is threatened by fire,” he said. “The bees then gorge themselves on honey until they’re lulled into a state in which they’re less likely to sting.”
Richter opened the lid and carefully propped it up against the box trying not to disturb the bees attached to the comb on the lid.
Richter then employed a special vacuum that gently pulled the live bees into a round wire cage making it easier to transport.
He then turned his attention to the box where he vacuumed thousands of live bees crawling on the waxy comb.
Using a putty knife, Richter separated the cells, oozing with wild honey, away from the walls of the crate.
He then placed the hive, one piece at a time, into a plastic bin and the wire cage of thousands of bees in the back of his pickup truck for transport to a property where the bees can establish new territory or be incorporated into an existing bee colony. Richter estimates there was nearly 60-80 pounds of honey and wax on the comb inside the crate.
The entire process took about two and a half hours.
“Honeybees are important because they produce honey and aid the pollination process,” Richter said.
Robbins said it is encouraging to know the base has a good population of honeybees. She attributes it to the base’s prescribed burning practices and other management that encourage vegetation that bees depend upon.
“Some of our efforts to assist the bee’s habitat include prescribed burning, which helps improve forage bases such as wild flowers,” she said. “Additionally, the clover planted in the pecan orchard provides an ideal food source for bees.”
According to Robbins, there are a lot of crops and other flowering plants that are pollinated by bees.
“Many of the plants on base provide habitat for other animals as well,” she said. “It is good to have a good population of pollinators on base.”
Robbins said there are some concerns when removing bees including the transfer of diseases, which can affect honeybees and not knowing what type of bees are being handled such as the Africanized Honeybees.
“Africanized Honeybees acquired the name killer bees because they will viciously attack people and animals who unwittingly stray into their territory, often resulting in serious injury or death,” she said. “This is the main reason why it is important for people to contact the Natural Resources Office first.”
Robbins asked that if anyone encounters a swarm or hive of bees, not to remove them and call the Natural Resources Office at 229-639-9946.