Leave swarms alone, says Vernon urban beekeeper

A Vernon urban beekeeper of seven years, Dawn Tucker, is reminding neighbours to leave swarms alone as bees look to re-home. (Dawn Tucker)
A Vernon urban beekeeper of seven years, Dawn Tucker, is reminding neighbours to leave swarms alone as bees look to re-home. (Dawn Tucker)
A Vernon urban beekeeper of seven years, Dawn Tucker, is reminding neighbours to leave swarms alone as bees look to re-home. (Dawn Tucker)
A Vernon urban beekeeper of seven years, Dawn Tucker, is reminding neighbours to leave swarms alone as bees look to re-home. (Dawn Tucker)

One Vernon beekeeper said ‘tis the season for bee swarms, but residents need not bee afraid.

Dawn Tucker, a Vernon urban beekeeper who just celebrated her bee anniversary, said she will travel to Vernon, Kelowna and Salmon Arm to help people remove swarms.

Swarms of bees can be found on low-hanging branches, fences, trees and even on cars, Tucker said.

“All of a sudden, you will see a cloud of bees and hear a loud buzz,” she said. “They’ll land and just sit there for a while as they send out little scout bees — they’re looking for a new place to call home.”

Location and weather may affect how long the swarm stays put, she said, noting the Okanagan may be a bit behind schedule due to weather.

Often swarms happen when a colony can’t return the its home or if it gets too big. In that case, the colony will split leaving behind a new, younger queen, while the older queen moves on with her half of the colony.

“It’s important for us to leave bees,” Tucker said, who spearheaded the changing of the City of Vernon’s bylaw to allow for urban beekeeping about a year ago. “They are a good part of pollination and our food cycle.”

Landscaping can be made conducive to aid in bee populations, which in turn assists with pollination and crop outcomes.

“Planting nice flowers and putting out little water sources for bees,” she offered as examples of ways people can help.

People don’t need to be afraid, Tucker said.

“Don’t hurt them, they’re not going to hurt you,” Tucker said. “This is a natural process that tends to occur.”

Bees are most docile when they swarm, Tucker said. They are just trying to find a new place to call home while working to protect their queen in the move.

“They’re not jerks like wasps,” Tucker said.

Unlike their pesky doppelgangers, bees will only sting as a form of defence, she explained, noting they die after they sting once.

“The reality is, bees want to do their thing and if left alone, they’ll do it,” she said.

If residents find a swarm, Tucker said just leave it be, but if it’s an issue, call a local beekeeper, like herself, or a local swarm collector.

“Bee keepers are always wanting to come out and get free bees,” she said.

Tucker said she will arrive to a site, assess the situation and determine the best way to make a catch.

Typically, Tucker will suit up and brush the bees into a box.

“Once you get the queen, the rest will follow,” she said.

Individuals looking to have a swarm removed can contact Tucker at 250-549-9615.

“It’s a good thing to remember that bees are our friends.”

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