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Honey bees find sweet new home

By IVY KELLER • Sep 17, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Imagine trying to find a new home for about 60,000 bees.

That’s exactly what the Sandusky River Valley Beekeeping Association (SRVBA), Norwalk Fire Department and property owner Norb Smith did Sept. 11.

“We got a call back sometime in July about it and finally had the opportunity to remove them,” said association president Richard Brutsche, who has been beekeeping for about 10 years.

Brutsche and other members of the beekeeping association relocated the colony to an outyard north of town. The bees currently are isolated from any other hives while they’re monitored for any strange behavior or illnesses.

For Brutsche, this presents the perfect chance to take on a colony native to Ohio.

“We found the queen,” he said — something which seldom happens. “We’re hopeful that the genetics of the Northern Ohio bee will live on.”

Brutsche, along with his mentor, John Schick, started getting phone calls about six years ago asking them to remove bees from buildings and yards. 

“I’m always at awe when people allow us to come in and open up the wall of their house to remove the bees,” Brutsche said. “When we get these calls, and right now we’re getting a lot of calls, basically I tell people I have to come in and have to cut a hole in the wall and take them off.”

Not everyone is so cooperative when they find out the process could lead to damage. The association president likes to point out they had a problem long before the bees showed up.

For the hive to be built, there would need to be a hole already in the wall or another access point to the house.

Usually, they get an ultimatum.

Okay, Brutsche said. The homeowner can kill “50, 60, 70,000 bees.”

“The smell will be foul,” he said. “There’s nobody to guard the honey.”

This, he explained, will attract yellowjackets and all other sorts of unsavory pests — making the problem even worse. On a warm day, the wax will melt and the honey will drip and attract ants as well.

Few beekeepers provide the unique service of relocating entire hives. But the SRVBA has a vision for the future of Ohio’s honeybees.

“We need to develop an Ohio queen,” he explained. “Something that understands our Ohio winters.”

Often, beekeepers will try to import queens from other states like California. They then die off during the winter because they aren’t used to the climate. Each hive needs a queen to operate and without one, the hive is doomed to fail.

Brutsche hopes keepers in the area will consider joining the SRVBA, which meets in Norwalk on the first Monday of every month.

“We’re constantly teaching beekeepers in these four counties (Huron, Erie, Sandusky, Seneca) how to do this to take the load off of John and myself,” Brutsche said.

The website is www.srvbeekeeping.com.

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