Don’t panic when bees swarm, we need them

Published 11:21 pm Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bees are fascinating creatures. Google the phrase “interesting facts about bees,” and you’ll come back with a plethora of links offering an equally plentiful assortment of tidbits. (The sheer number is why we’re not listing any.)

Bees are important creatures. If not for their work as pollinators, humans and animals would be awfully hungry. According to Michigan State University’s website, bees are responsible for 1 of every 3 bites of our food. Pollination is essential to the growth of fruits and vegetables, hay, nut trees and fiber plants like cotton, increasing U.S. crop values by $15 billion annually according to the USDA. (We haven’t even gotten to Winnie the Pooh’s favorite substance.)

Bees also are frightening creatures to those who are unfamiliar with their quirks and have experienced the pain of their stings or face life-threatening reactions when they happen.

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One of those quirks is the swarm, which occurs after a hive raises a new queen. The old queen will take the majority of the colony and look for a new abode. A thousand bees accumulated on tree branches, in an eave or inside the wall of a house or elsewhere is an impressive sight — and a recipe for panic.

We imagine the first thought when such panic sets in is “get rid of ’em, immediately.”

Too often, “immediately” means grab some insecticide, unroll the garden hose and turn the spray nozzle to maximum jet or build the smokiest possible fire.

All that’s going to do is poison the environment, create a bunch of angry bees looking to use those barbs on their butts, and either asphyxiate other creatures who happen to wander into the area or burn something down.

There’s another option. The Alabama Beekeepers Association on its website keeps a list of members — and there are several in Northeast Alabama — who possess the skills, equipment and willingness to safely collect the bees and move them elsewhere.

Take advantage of their services if you encounter a swarm. Don’t let your fear and impatience get ahead of your brain.

The bee shortage of recent years, attributed to colony collapse disorder, is reversing, although there are differences of opinion as to whether it really was that significant an issue. Why take a chance of refueling it?

Parks aid economy

Quick, when’s the last time you visited one of Alabama’s national parks?

There are nine, you know — two national historic sites, two national historic trails, a national monument, a national military park, a national preserve, a national heritage area and a parkway. Three of the sites are in Northeast Alabama — Little River Canyon, Russell Cave and the Trail of Tears.

According to a National Park Service report, 792,481 people visited its Alabama facilities in 2015, pumping $31.8 million into the state’s economy. That activity was responsible for 510 jobs.

Perhaps you aren’t familiar with these parks. Visit for a rundown of each, and pick one out for a day or overnight trip.

You’ll find fun, natural beauty and history among the offerings, and have a chance to boost the state and local economies.

There’s much to do in Alabama — if you look for it.

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