LAPEER — The Lapeer County Master Gardeners pride themselves on offering not just a pretty place to visit with the Display Gardens on Suncrest, but also in educating the public.
On Sunday, the group had an unexpected chance to educate, as a fairly new educational bee hive at the gardens placed by Mej’s Mystical Meadows of North Branch in May became overpopulated and the bees did what they do naturally, swarming into a nearby tree.
The nearby pavilion was filled with several hundred guests partaking of the group’s annual Tea Thyme in the Garden fundraising tea when the swarm was noticed. Master Gardener and member of the Seven Ponds Beekeepers group, Jane Schade, knew what to do and called Terry Tolland, President of Seven Ponds BeeKeepers. Toland suited up in appropriate beekeeping garb and calmly climbed several ladders and collected the swarm that will now take up residence in the vacant observation hive inside Seven Ponds. The hive’s bees had died off because of the long and harsh winter.
Tolland explained the swarming process.
“The biggest thing is that it’s a natural part of their cycle and how more bees get into the world. When overcrowded in hives, bees make a new queen and half the bees leave with the queen to forge a new home. The queen can lay 2,000-3,000 eggs per day this time of year.”
Tolland added that he collected about 8,000-10,000 bees in the swarm, a little bigger than a basketball.
“Bees are the most docile at that time because they have no home or food to protect, no young to protect and they are out scouting in the cluster looking for a new home. I got lucky and was able to offer them someplace to relocate,” Tolland said.
As for their new home, Tolland noted that Mike Champaign, director at Seven Ponds, has an observation hive inside the facility.
“I will put this live swarm back into that observation hive,” he said. “The club also has hives outside that we use as demonstration tools at our meeting. We open those up about an hour before the meetings to observe bee keeping first hand and help people get their feet wet.”
The Seven Ponds group meets the fourth Thursday of every month, from 6:30-9 p.m. and Tolland said the bees are on display in open hives. It’s an open-door meeting and the public is always welcome.