Bees are all the buzz at bank

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By Geoff Hamill

There was a lot of buzz around the office of US Bank in Springfield Thursday afternoon, and it came from a group of bees located in the upstairs of the bank office.

Frank Peters, branch manager of the local US Bank office, said the excitement all began when he recently had an installation scheduled for a new security camera. When the installer arrived and went into the seldom-used upstairs area to complete the installation and discovered a large group of honey bees, he told Peters about the problem.

“He went up there, then came down and told me to call him when the bees were gone,” Peters said with a laugh. “We had seen a bee or two in here, but we just thought they came in from outside.”

Realizing this wasn’t a job for a man armed with just a can of Raid, Peters placed a call to a man who directed him to beekeeper Taishaun Johnson of Lebanon.

Johnson said he has been working with bees for about a year, and he was interested to take a look at the bank’s bee problem.

“There’s actually a big problem with honeybees disappearing. They call it Colony Collapse Disorder, and scientists can’t figure it out. You just don’t see bees like you used to,” Johnson said. “Before calling an exterminator, I wanted to see if I could remove the hive safely and take it back to my residence.”

Johnson said once he removed the hive, he would take the bees to his home and let them live out their lives, while also harvesting their honey, which he primarily said is primarily for personal use.

Johnson estimated the bank was inhabited by about 100,000 to 120,000 living bees, as well a few hundred thousand dead ones. He said the bees remove their dead from the hive to keep it clean.

“Bees are very clean. They don’t use the bathroom inside the hive, and if it’s raining, they will hold it until they can go outside. They also remove their dead out of the hive,” Johnson said. He added that the large number of dead bees at the bank was likely the result of bees that went the wrong way, thinking the light they saw through the window was the way outside. When they were stuck in that area and couldn’t find their way back to the hive, Johnson said they eventually just died there.

Johnson worked with Linda Collins, a fellow beekeeper, to remove the bees from the bank. He said they spent about three hours on the job Thursday, and had plans to return on Saturday to pick up the bees.

“We got everything removed and we left the hive up there. That will give the bees a chance to go down into the box. We found the queen and got her in there, so she’s in the hive, and hopefully all of the bees will go down in there with her,” he said.

Stings are a risk of the job, but beekeepers wear protective equipment, and Johnson said the bees usually sting as a defense mechanism, but not without being provoked.

“If you go in there tearing the hive apart, they only sting to protect their hive, the queen and the young. If you’re not tearing up the hive, there’s no danger at all,” he said. “They won’t just come after you because they see you.”

To get the bees out of the bank, Johnson said he first cuts a hole in the hive and then cuts out some of the comb and places it inside a frame which has been constructed for that purpose. The idea is to extract the queen, and he said when that happens, the other bees will typically follow her.

“We extract as much comb as we can, and we get the brood, which is the babies. We let the hive sit, and hopefully the rest of the bees will go in after the queen,” he said.

Johnson described things as going “alright” with the US Bank extraction, and he added that he and his fellow beekeepers are always interest in finding more bees to remove. There is no charge for the service, and he added that they just want to get to the bees before the exterminator.

He is also interested in having others join the Green River Beekeepers Club. The group meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Taylor County Extension Office in Campbellsville. For more information on the club, contact Johnson at (270) 699-9318.