At the peak of 'swarm season,' Homer Area Beekeepers ready to help

Jul 16, 2020

Bee hives, photographed on Independence Day and posted to Homer Area Beekeepers Association Facebook.
Credit Linda Gorman

You may not know it, but there are probably 10 million honey bees flitting about from blossom to blossom in the Homer area right now. Each year, beekeepers import the bees by the thousands, and they quickly set about multiplying.
    “We started out with 15,000 bees when they get shipped in here. And that 15,000 can grow up to 60,000 very easily by this time of year,” said Linda Gorman, founder of Homer Area Beekeepers. “And our swarm season starts down here about mid June through the end of July.”
    Additionally, Gorman says each year there are about a dozen new beekeepers popping up in the Homer area.
    “We get 10 to 15 new beekeepers a year. If they've had a class on keeping bees in Alaska, that makes a huge difference in how successful they are,” she said. “A lot of them stick with them. Some of them don't stick with it at all.”
    As the hives grow in population, the bees will spit in two, following a new queen to a new hive. As they’re doing that, they may congregate in massive groups called swarms.
    “When the honeybees get overcrowded, too hot, or the beekeeper is not doing their job by tending the hives every seven to 10 days, going in and looking for queen cells, look for their queen or evidence of a queen, then that can happen really quickly,” Gorman said. “And that's a natural thing with bees, to split and keep propagating the hive. That's just a natural thing with honeybees.”
    Each swarm, Gorman says, can easily have as many as 50,000 bees in it. But she cautions, honeybees are not the only insects that swarm.
    “Most of our calls, everybody thinks they're honeybees when in reality, they are wasps,” she said. “Some of the beekeepers will work with wasps and take out their nests. But oftentimes they'll just tell the homeowner how to deal with the wasps.”
    Some beekeepers in the Homer area collect and sell the honey their bees make, but for Gorman, the treat is in the pollen the worker bees bring back to the hive.
    “Some people sell, some people don't. I got into beekeeping for pollen,” Gorman said. “I've been a lifelong asthmatic, have horrible environmental allergies, and I met a beekeeper in 2003, (and) he said you should be eating this. And it was pollen. And when I started eating pollen, my life changed. And my asthma became much better, my allergies better. So that's why I keep bees, it's the pollen that I'm going for.”
    Gorman says the Homer Area Beekeepers are standing by to help remove bee swarms if you spot one. In the past two weeks alone, there have been 15 swarms reported, with three of them being captured by member beekeepers.  If you see a swarm of honeybees, call Linda Gorman at 907-399-9211.