Beekeeper Group Creates Buzz Around Saving Bees
To help save DC’s honeybee population, a local beekeepers group is calling on city residents to alert the group whenever they spot a swarm this spring.
If you’d heard less buzzing this spring, it may be because there are fewer honeybees around. Brutal winters, pesticides, and disease have all contributed to a nationwide bee shortage.
But beekeepers across the country are working to save these prolific pollinators. For its part, the DC Beekeepers Alliance implemented a unique, crowdsourced effort to help find these insects new homes among the area’s local beekeepers.
In a public “swarm reminder,” the Alliance recently asked city residents to call anytime they spot a swarm.
“Because of losses nationwide, many new trained beekeepers are having a hard time getting bees, and these are probably the best possible bees they could get,” Toni Burnham, founder of the DC Beekeepers Alliance said in the notice. “We could really use your help if you see a swarm of bees which we could catch and give a safe place to live.”
The group, which is not formally incorporated, engages several hundred members through monthly meetings, beekeeper certification classes, and social media. It’s the third year in a row the Alliance has put out such a call, and Burnham said the group has been able to save about a dozen bee colonies each year.
Burnham triages the calls herself. She said she tries to screen the calls—which are heaviest during a roughly two-week period from when the dandelions start to bloom until the poplar trees start to bloom—to make sure people have actually spotted honeybees.
“There are 2,000 kinds of bee in North America and 20,000 kinds of bee in the world,” she said. “For most folks, if it’s live and it buzzes, it’s a bee. It’s really important that I not wear out my volunteers sending them out on worthless call after worthless call. So I do try to prequalify and speak to the person who calls in to find out if it’s likely to be honeybees.”
Once Burnham determines it’s a honeybee sighting, she taps a volunteer member to respond. The volunteer may keep the bees, or Burnham donates them to a local community garden or another local beekeeper.
“Among the beekeepers, we’ve tried to do this as a shared effort because not everyone can be everywhere all the time,” Burnham said.