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Saving the bees: Marshall Beekeepers Association extracts bees from local law firm

By Robin Y. Richardson
May 27, 2016 at 4 a.m.

A hive of honey bees were extracted Thursday from the wall of the historic Hub Store, downtown, which now houses the law offices of Michael C. Smith.

When Charla Foster caught the sight of dead bees, resting in the windowsill of the old Hub Shoe Store, now the home of the law office of Michael C. Smith where she works as a paralegal, she knew she had to do something to protect herself as well as the bees.

"I'm allergic to bees, so anytime I see a bee, of course, I'm (frantic)," she said. "I started noticing over in the Hub, at the front door, in the windowsill, dead bees. Well, that's not normal. There's not any bees flying anywhere, but yet, we've got dead bees. And then every day when I came in, it was more and more bees; and they smelled."

Alarmed, she turned to the Harrison County Ag Extension Office for help.

"I called to see if they could give me some guidance on what I needed to do because I heard that bees were an endangered species and you weren't supposed to spray them," she said. "They gave me some names of people to call."

From there, she did what she said every normal, sane person does these days - posts a message on Facebook, seeking help.

"One of my friends, Susan Smith, directed me to the Marshall Beekeeper Association Facebook page. Who knew? I didn't know there was an association. I requested to join their page and they immediately accepted."

After explaining her plight, she instantly received a response.

"I just put a post on there to explain to them that I had been finding dead bees and I was concerned and that now I was starting to hear buzzing in my office and could someone help me," Foster said.

Within minutes, beekeepers John West and Karin Bayne, vice president of the association, responded to the scene.

"John West messaged me back on Facebook and said, 'We're not far away; we'll be right there.' He brought Karen Bayne, who is the vice president. They were at a bee supply store. So, they came in and took a look around and actually found that entry point outside of the Hub where the bees were coming in and out," Foster said.

After getting the green light from her boss to hire the group to extract the hive, the beekeepers returned Thursday morning, and worked through the day, removing the honey bees to relocate them to safety. Rebecca Searcy, secretary of the association, also joined them, observing for support.

"First, they had the little camera where they were able to look into the wall and find the bees so they would know where to cut because he actually went up into the crawl space up above the ceiling and could hear the bees, but they were not obviously there," Foster said. "That's how we knew they were in the wall."

From there, they started the extraction process, removing the bees with a vacuum-type device, transporting them into a bucket, and cutting the honeycomb out bit-by-bit.

"It's amazing," Foster said of the process.

Saving the bees

The paralegal said she learned so much about the cycle of bees, just by watching the professionals at work.

"The infrastructure of the bee system is amazing how that works; how they have all the different types of bees and what they do and their jobs," Foster said.

She was also impressed with how the Beekeepers Association remedied the situation.

"They have now, outside, transferred the bees that they pulled out of the wall, into the box with all of the honeycomb. They put that box up near on the awning near that hole, so that when the field bees try to come back in, they'll go into that box instead of coming back into the building because they're going to close up that entryway so that they can't get back in the building," Foster said. "They'll go into the box with the queen."

The queen bee emits a pheromone, which draws the bees.

"They explained so much stuff to me. It's amazing," Foster said of the beekeepers.

Bayne will return to the location later to take the box to relocate the bees back to her farms where they can thrive and work effectively.

"They capture the queen and the bees and they take them back to their acreage, which is the bee yard, where the hives are, and they will transfer them to a wooden hive and nourish them and manage them," Searcy explained. "Eventually, they'll go out… they'll pack in honey and nectar and pollen. They make honey and they harvest it - from farm to table."

Bayne said she thanks attorney Smith for making the choice of relocation instead of extermination when it came to the bees' fate.

"I want everybody to know that he didn't spray the bees, because that's a problem," Bayne said.

"He was willing to pay to have them taken out and saved instead of somebody killing them," she said, thanking him.

The role of bees

Bayne said bees play a pivotal role in terms of food supply; thus being able to save hives is important.

"Every third bite of food you put in your mouth, a honeybee had something to do with it," Bayne said. "If the honeybees go extinct, then one-third of the food is gone. We just can't have that."

She said while there are other pollinators - the bumble bee, butterfly, humming bird and bat - the honey bee is the best suited for the job.

"The reason the honey bee is the best suited for the pollination, especially of the food crops and stuff, is because there's so many of them and you can concentrate an area so much with just a few hives of bees because there's so many bees in a colony," Bayne said. "That's the reason people use honey bees. That's why we want to save the bees."

She said the propolis, a red or brown resinous substance collected by honeybees from tree buds, has health benefits as well as the honey. Wax is also used for various purposes.

"There's a lot of things people don't associate with bees doing … (affording) things they wouldn't have if it wasn't for bees," Bayne said.

Foster's glad that the law firm was able to call on the beekeepers for assistance.

"Number one, it's a safety issue for me in the office because I'm allergic," Foster said. "But, more importantly, it's just about nature and putting the bees where they should go and not inside of a wall where I need to work."

Besides, "there's only room for one queen in this office and it's me," she joked.

The association

Anyone interested in what the Beekeepers do is welcome to attend The Marshall Beekeepers Association meetings, held at 5:30 p.m. every second Thursday of the month at Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

"No bees will be flying, so you can very comfortably learn," Searcy teased.

All of the members' bee farms are organic. John West, who was on the scene Thursday, and his wife, Kristi, own Always Missbeehaven bee farm; Bayne owns Honey Hill Bee Farm. Both sell honey.

"We do it all," West said of all members of the Association. "The Beekeepers Association, if there's anything that needs to be done, we'll handle it one way or another."

For more information, call West at (318) 423-5187 or Bayne at (903) 261-3021.

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