Thousands of bees cause a buzz in Riverwest

Posted at 6:09 PM, Jun 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 20:41:24-04

Seeing thousands of bees at once can be intimidating to the average person but it's the ultimate surprise for a bee hobbyist.

"Yesterday afternoon, I came out and there were bees everywhere," said Matthew Watson, a bee hobbyist. "They have calmed down a little bit but they're still running around."

Watson was building a new beehive to use at his local apiary. He says he already has one but wanted to start a second one. So, using a wooden case for the hive, he stained it to withstand the elements and left it out on his balcony to dry overnight but woke up to a new colony.

"I never would have thought a swarm would find it up there and randomly pick the beehive as a home," Watson said. "It's quote, unquote the perfect home for bees. It has all the comb and everything set up for them. So they must have just liked it. They may have been attracted to the beeswax because there's a little in the comb so they feel more comfortable."

To the average person, a swarm of bees can be alarming. However, Linda Reynolds with the UW Extension says there is nothing for people to worry about if they're minding their own beeswax.

"They look scary because there are so many bees," Reynolds said. "When they move to whatever site they're going to, there are literally thousands of bees and that can be scary. It's a surreal experience and they're not interested in stinging you. You can stand in the middle of a swarm that's moving and not be bothered by them at all because they're just looking for a new home."

Reynolds thinks this is an unbelievably rare occurrence but she says it's important to keep the bees safe.

"Honeybees are important for pollination," Reynolds said. "They pollinate wild flowers. They produce better seeds, vegetable crops, fruit crops. That's why we got our fruits and vegetables. Every third bite of food you take is responsible to a pollinator service."

For Watson, he hopes to safely take the bees to his apiary by waiting for the bees to get settled before transporting them.

"I was pretty nervous yesterday when I found the swarm," Watson said. "Now, I'm excited. Once they settle down, we can move them. It's a second colony and it's that many more bees in the community garden pollinating things."

In Milwaukee, people who want to have bees need a permit from the city and can have up to two hives. Watson says he doesn't want to have his own hive until he moves into a more permanent home so he will likely move the hive Friday night.