OMG: Bees Are Swarming Outside the House

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Charlene Potter is a urban beekeeper, who spoke to Rotary Club members.

Many Pacific Palisades residents have reported bees swarming in their yard or in other locations around the area. What’s the right thing to do?

According to Los Angeles County Beekeepers (LACBA) vice president Charlene Potter, leave them. “Swarming means they are healthy and looking for a new home,” Potter said. “They have already scouted their new home.

“When they are swarming, they are most vulnerable,” said Potter, who is urban beekeeper, noting that “If they don’t go away in 24 hours, call a beekeeper and we’ll rehome for you.”

Potter, a member of the LACA, which was founded in 1873, spoke to the Palisades Rotary Club on October 18.

LACA, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year, is a nonprofit that gives grants and offers beekeeping classes. The group works at the L.A. County Fair and also at the Spring Fling at the L.A. City Zoo, educating people about the importance of bees.

“There are many kinds of bees, and most are gentle,” Potter said.

The fear that many people feel about swarming bees, can be traced back to when Africanized honeybees, which escaped from Brazil in 1957. A project had been underway to try and breed that species with European honeybees, which are “gentle and docile,” according to Potter.

The African bees escaped and have made their way, over the decades, into the United States, and those bees are more aggressive. Potter said one can’t tell the difference by looking at the bee, but rather observing the behavior of the Africanized bee.

“Beekeeping is a challenge because of the Africanized honeybee spread,” said Potter, who started with two hives and now has 25. “It’s not a cheap hobby.”

In order to be a beekeeper, Potter said that person must be:

  • Fastidious about the management of the hives
  • Perform regular hive inspection
  • Requeen when necessary
  • Treat for diseases and pathogens
  • Work with swarm control
  • Feed bees when necessary
  • Be willing to spend money and time.

By now, the general public is aware of the need for honeybees. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about one-third of all food eaten by Americans come from crops pollinated by honeybees.

“The commercial production of more than 90 crops relies on bee pollination,” the FDA wrote. “Of the approximately 3,600 bee species that live in the U.S., the European honeybee is the most common pollinator, making it the most important bee to domestic agriculture.”

Bees carry the pollen on their legs.

Potter told Rotarians they could help the bees by allowing the dandelions to grow on the lawn. “It’s the first source of food for bees in the spring,” she said.

“Don’t use pesticides,” Potter said. “Someone within a mile radius of my house used a pesticide and it killed bees in five of my hives.”

She suggested that people get rid of lawns and plant flowering trees and bushes instead. Finally, it’s important for bees to have a water source.

A Rotarian asked about a bee sting. “I’ve been interested in bees since I was stung when I was a child playing in my grandma’s garden,” Potter said, and noted she’s been stung so many times she doesn’t keep count.

“Boy bees don’t sting,” Potter said, acknowledging it is only the female bees. “When a bee stings you, it leaves a barbed stinger in your skin.”

She said, it was important to flick it out as soon as possible because as long as the stinger is still in, it is still pumping venom. The stinger is one tenth of the body of the bee. Once the bee loses its stinger, it dies.

The urban beekeeper says that she “gets a call about once a week to remove bees. The number one place is a compost bin,” she said. “It’s almost the perfect size for bees.” She said that compost does not attract bees, rather it is the sheltered space that is attractive.

“If you need raw honey, healing balms, soaps or if you need bees removed, you can email me beekeeperchar@yahoo.com,” Potter said. “No honey is better than the honey you get from your own backyards.”

(Editor’s note: CTN bought spring honey – lighter in color than Potter’s summer honey—and it was delicious.)

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