Coming across a large swarm of bees in an urban setting can be a bit unnerving, even if you're not really afraid of them.
That's why two GoMN producers were a little buzzed – on adrenaline – after walking past a big ball of bees on the trek from the parking lot to the office.
Some honey bees seem to have made themselves at home at an electrical box behind the Be The Match building in Minneapolis. A sign warns passersby to leave them bee ????.
What are they doing there?
It seemed like an odd place for bees to move in, so GoMN reached out to bee expert Joe Meyers of Four Seasons Apiaries – a year-round, non-migratory beekeeping operation in Minnesota.
Meyers said beekeepers call this time of year "swarm season." From late May through July, there's lots of nectar, and honey bee colonies are expanding and splitting off to look for a new home.
And while a big hollow tree would be nice, Meyers says city bees just make due with what they have sometimes.
"An ideal new home consists of a cavity about 10 gallons in size and 10-20 feet off the ground. In nature, a hollow tree works well. In the city it's often the eves of someone's house that wasn't properly insulated or sealed. I've not heard of any in electrical boxes but if it fits the bill, the bees may deem it a good site," he said.
Meyers said there could be a large established hive living in the electrical box, and on hot days they do what's called "bearding," which is when it's too hot in the hive so the bees just hang on the outside entrance.
But it's also possible the bees are just scouting the area.
"Or it's a swarm that left a nearby hive and decided that was a good place to land and make headquarters while they look for a suitable new home," Meyers said.
A security guard who works for the building told GoMN the bees seemed to appear there out of nowhere.
"They were just there one day. I'm not a bee guy, so I called the city," he said.
The city told him to protect the bees until they could be removed. That's why the sign went up, warning people who walk by not to disturb them.
Honey bees are often described as docile creatures that don't sting unless provoked, but it's not really safe for people – or the bees, for that matter – to keep them there.
Plus, it can't be great for an electric box to be full of bees and honey comb – which means they'll have to be relocated.
The city isn't going to send someone to move the bees because the electric box is the property of Xcel Energy, the guard said. So he called Xcel and was told they would take it from there.
Now all there is to do is wait, and try to keep people from getting too close to them in the meantime.
Xcel Energy told GoMN the bees will be removed and relocated safely.
"When we learn of beehives on our equipment, we’ll use a beekeeper to safely remove the hive and take it to a more natural environment. An employee from Xcel Energy is always on hand to ensure this work can be done safely," spokesman Matt Lindstrom told GoMN.
Xcel is actually pretty active in the fight to protect bees and other pollinators. Read about the company's pollinator initiative here.
The plight of bees
Honey bees and other pollinators are in trouble. That's why we're interested in what's going to happen to the bees across the street.
Populations are declining. Beekeepers across the United States lost 33.2 percent of their colonies from April 2016 to March 2017, according to Bee Informed Partnership’s latest colony loss survey. That statistic is a little better than previous years, but experts say that just means things have gone from “horrible” to “just bad.”
And the rusty patched bumblebee made headlines earlier this year after it became the first bee on the endangered species list.
It's a problem because we need bees, butterflies, and other pollinators for a healthy ecosystem and food supply.
The varroa mite is considered by scientists to be a leading factor in bee deaths. Pesticide use, disease, and nutrition have also been cited as contributing to colony losses.
Here’s a few ways to do your part to help bees and other pollinators.