Bees alive!: Apiarist removes swarm from North Newton parking lot

Gwen Neufeld of North Newton works on gathering honeybees from a swarm on Friday evening. Wendy Nugent/HC Now

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NORTH NEWTON—The strip mall, known as 2500 Place in North Newton, was all a-buzz late Friday afternoon as a swarm of thousands of honeybees made its temporary home on a tree near the parking lot on 24th Street.

One woman driving by had her mouth wide open in astonishment, while another woman stood on a corner with a dog, watching.

Local apiarist Gwen Neufeld was called to move the swarm, which concentrated on finding a new home.

Neufeld was called twice in a day for the same swarm, as it moved.

“They were up in that tree over there in front of the district office,” she said, indicating a tree on Main Street.

A woman who works in one of the offices at 2500 Place contacted Neufeld, who had a hive frame with nectar and pollen to attract them.

However, the bees flew away and then Neufeld was contacted later the same day.

Another woman, who appeared on the scene, said she had lost half of her swarm and that they might be her bees, but she left, letting Neufeld capture them.

Even though the swarm only took up a small portion of a tree limb, there were more than 5,000 there, according to Neufeld.

“It was a big swarm,” she said.

She had planned to wait a little while before attempting to guide them into one of her hives. Dressed in her beekeeping outfit that covered her quite well, Neufeld said she planned to scoop them up and try to get them to go into the hive.

“I’ll just bring them down a little bit because they’re just hanging out a little bit,” she said.

Neufeld’s husband, Kurt Friesen, got out his chainsaw, cutting the limb the bees swarmed on and the bees came off the limb like a waterfall of insects toward the ground and flew about.

At one point, Neufeld held onto the entire bee-covered limb with both hands, making sure anyone taking photos was ready when she shook the limb, guiding the bees to the hive.

Neufeld was concerned if the queen bee would accept their new home and she must have, because the bees flocked in, even marching from the hive lid onto the bed of the truck where the hive rested and Neufeld stood.

Neufeld said that in March, one of her hives swarmed, so she watched videos to see how to capture swarms.

She said she was using lemongrass oil to keep the bees in the hive.

“As long as they’re going in, that could be a good sign,” she said. “When they’re in swarm mode, that’s when they’re most docile.”

The bees have one goal—to find a new home of which the queen will approve.

“The idea is to give them a house that they’ll like,” she said, adding she planned to take the swarm back to her home to live outside in the hive.


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