Rural Missouri - August 2013 - (Page 30)

SWARM CHASERS Bob Brammer and Dan West herd wild bees in north-central Missouri S by Jack Wax photos by Kile Brewer ome people get a thrill chasing storms. Bob Brammer of Macon gets his thrills chasing swarms. For the past 35 years, he has tracked down and captured hundreds of swarms of bees. He’s known throughout north-central Missouri as the beekeeper to call when a swarm of bees goes where it’s not wanted, such as inside the walls of a home, the underside of a truck or just about anywhere a queen bee will lead her loyal followers of workers and drones. Bob’s goal is to keep as many bees alive as possible. “Bees serve a vital function,” says the Macon Electric Cooperative member. “We need them for pollinators, and the public should know that beekeepers will come and get them if they call.” For the past three years, Bob has teamed up with Dan West, and working together, they bring home the bees. Dan, who is six years younger than Bob, is quick to acknowledge Bob as his mentor. Together, they own Bee Trace Apiary, a beekeeping operation that includes 45 hives they’ve collected. Dan also finds time to take Bob Brammer, the co-owner of Bee Trace Apiary in Macon, carries a piece of honeycomb containing brood, the larval stage of the care of his orchard and to run West honeybee, back to his truck where he will cut it into pieces and place it inside a new hive where the bees will live. Mercantile, a vintage Before heading out in Bob’s pickup, book store in Macon. Ray Nabors, a bee specialist are their face veils, gloves and somethey pack their beekeeper’s helmets The two are not just and retired University of Missouri times full-length white bee suits. • and veils, bee suits, several pairs of Extension entomologist, says Each piece of wax comb is saved business partners; they’re Macon gloves, power saws and drills, hamalso good friends. They that preserving wild swarms and cut to fit into an empty hive they mers, duct tape, a generator, their is a wise thing to do. bring with them. Every egg and every both share the same easy“bee-vac,” a ladder, a supply of fivegoing manner and fascina“Colonies that build up immature bee still developing in the gallon buckets, bee smokers, a pry bar to the point of needing comb is moved to the new hive, and tion with bees. They don’t and several hive boxes with frames for to swarm are survivors,” each ounce of honey is harvested. It charge for capturing swarms the honeycomb they’ll be moving. he says. “This is espewill be fed to the bees as they get used or removing wild hives of Some swarms are easy to find and bees, as they usually end up with cially important considerto their new home. Clinging to the reach. They may be in plain sight, another hive. ing how vulnerable other hives have comb are thousands of worker bees dangling from the end of a low“The way I look at it, we’re doing become to Colony Collapse Disorder that must be swept or vacuumed into hanging tree limb. Others can only be two things,” Bob says. “We’re providand other ailments.” buckets and emptied on top of the reached by ladder or are found deep ing a public service as well as getting Bob and Dan make capturing new hive. in a home’s walls or floor joists. Before some bees to increase our colony.” swarms and moving hives look easy, The last bees collected are the stragBob and Dan start cutting through Bob’s public service extends to beebut as they say on TV, don’t try this glers — field bees returning to the any walls or into any tree trunks, they keepers throughout the state. In 2010, at home. Some people have lifehive with nectar and pollen. They always light their bee smokers. The he was named mentor of the year by threatening reactions to bee stings, cluster together where the hive had bees are given a hefty puff of smoke, the Missouri State Beekeepers Associaand angering 50,000 bees is best left been, and Bob and Dan use their which calms them and neutralizes the tion. His depth of experience is a critito experienced beekeepers who have tools to coax them into the new hive pheromones they produce to alert the cal resource says Grant Gillard, past learned when to back away and when box. After the bee smokers have been other bees of danger. president of the association. to charge in. Unlike the average perextinguished, the pickup is reloaded. Once they have a clear view of the “Despite a recent upsurge of interson, they won’t confuse a swarm with Bob, Dan and thousands of bees head hive, the beekeepers begin taking it est in beekeeping, the number of a hive. A hive is a permanent home back to their apiary. apart, carefully people who keep bees is declining. that is defended Bob says someday he’d like to turn peeling off the You can’t replace the knowledge of aggressively by Bee Trace Apiary over to Dan. But, like heavy slabs of one commercial beekeeper who has bees, while a most beekeepers, he has trouble thinkwax comb that had 1,000 hives with 1,000 backyard swarm is a teming about a life without bees. At age are filled with beekeepers who keep one hive each,” porary stopover 63, he says, “I plan to retire either 10, honey, eggs and Grant says. on the search l5 or 20 years from now.“ immature bees. Although Bob and Dan don’t take for a new home. At this point, Bob themselves too seriously, they are Swarming bees If you need to have a swarm of bees and Dan are usumaking a serious contribution to Misrarely sting. moved, call Bob at 660-415-6480 or ally surrounded souri’s natural environment. When called check for the nearest chapter of the Misby a cloud of Colonies split and swarm when to catch a swarm souri State Beekeepers at www.mostatebuzzing, divebees need more space to keep the hive or move a hive, Most chapters post lists bombing bees. growing. When bees swarm, about Bob and Dan of beekeepers who are able to remove All that separates half of the hive leaves in search of come prepared swarms. A solitary worker bee clings to a section of them from the a new home. The other half stays for whatever Wax is a freelance writer who lives in empty honeycomb from a hive that Bob wrath of the hive behind with a new queen. they might find. Columbia. and Dan removed from a tree in Madison. 30 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2013

Rural Missouri - August 2013
Table of Contents
Hideout heaven
Mining a lead-lined history
Adrenaline adventures
Out of the Way Eats
High-flying fun
Hearth and Home
Blood-stained dawn
Swarm chasers
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - August 2013