OTTAWA — If Franklin County residents spot a swarm of honeybees, they needn’t fear; removal is generally only a Facebook post away.
“You order a 3-pound package of bees for 150 bucks,” Matthew Brandes said. “They’re expensive, that’s why you like swarms. They are ‘free bees.’”
Brandes is a Wellsville beekeeper, one of the many local apiary enthusiasts standing ready to rehome groups of bees that have separated from their native hive to form a new hive, or “swarmed.” These swarms, typically found in tree branches, are characteristic of the Kansas spring season, generally harmless to any humans nearby, and highly prized by beekeepers.
“If you see a swarm, don’t harm them — there is someone who will come and get them,” he said. “In fact, there will be a whole bunch of somebody’s willing to come and get them.”
For Brandes, social media has revolutionized the process of finding and capturing swarms, along with fostering awareness of the ecologically significant practice.
“Social media is also a way of connecting with the community itself,” Brandes said. “We collected a swarm in Wellsville a number of years ago, and the lady was very freaked out by it. She saw this ball of bees, and (erroneously) worried that they might be aggressive and harm her children. To me social media is also a way of educating the general public.”
Brandes’ latest swarm capture took place in Olathe on May 18, where he was able to remove a swarm from a residential neighborhood right before the area suffered a thunderstorm.
“This was a situation where we had a storm coming in, and the high winds and rain probably would’ve killed the swarm,” he said. “It’s great to hear about swarms and have the chance to capture them.”
Swarm capturing is just one facet of the thriving northeastern Kansas beekeeping culture, which sees participation for diverse reasons. For Brandes, beekeeping is another notch in his hobby collection.
“I’m a hobby guy, and I love to learn,” he said. “So to me this is just one more thing that is educational – it something for me to get into, and study, and learn.”
For Sandi, Brandes’ wife, beekeeping is a way to connect with the land and other people.
“A good friend of ours, she has a son that is allergic to anything corn-based,” Sandi said. “Honey, when you buy at the store, a lot of times those bees have been fed with corn syrup, or the honey is been cut with corn syrup.
“Our honey is organic, so it was the first time our friends’ son has been able to eat honey. Things like that make you feel good.”
For Steve Redlin, owner/operator of Chippewa Hills Honey Farm southwest of Ottawa, there’s peace to be found in the pastoral activity.
“I find it relaxing,” the three-year honey-producer said. “I like to just go and sit in front of them and watch them. It’s mesmerizing. And you know exactly where what you’re eating comes from.”