Local honeybee enthusiasts rescue swarm | PostIndependent.com

Local honeybee enthusiasts rescue swarm

Collin Szewczyk
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Two longtime friends Wacek Topor and Joe Koziol teamed up Saturday to rescue a swarm of honeybees that had gathered in an apple tree outside the Cedar Lodge Motel.

The nearly 20-year mainstays of the Roaring Fork Valley grew up near the Tatry Mountains in southern Poland and tended honeybees as a hobby.

“Many people don’t have a clue about how important bees are to us,” Koziol said, standing outside the Cedar Lodge Motel, 2102 Grand Ave., on Saturday.

When Koziol, 55, a maintenance worker at the Cedar Lodge, saw the swarm, he knew just who to call to remove the bees and transport them without harm.

Topor, 55, who is a maintenance worker at the Rodeway Inn, came right over to the Cedar Lodge with the equipment and know-how to safely capture the swarm.

“The bees try to protect us, they feed people, and still we try to kill them,” Topor said as he was preparing the equipment. “I’ll do my best to save them.”

Using a ladder, he placed an eight-frame hive box underneath the swarm, with a bucket below the box to prop it up. The idea is to coax the bees into the hive box so they can be safely contained and moved to another location.

Topor used gentle movements to urge the swarm of bees downward into the box. His preferred tools are a feather or a glove. He noted that handlers must be gentle with honeybees, as the slightest injury can kill them.

After capturing the swarm in the box, Topor said bees can have a tough time in Glenwood Springs between the cold winters and predators, such as skunks and bears.

“Glenwood is a tough place to keep bees,” he said. “The cold kills them, and I’ve even had two bears wreck my hives. It looked like a tornado went through them.”

Topor added that the best place for the bees is in an orchard with good southern exposure, as they “like lots of sun and peace and quiet.”

Friends for nearly half a century, Topor and Koziol remember tending to the land – and bees – back in their native Poland, and they have maintained their childhood admiration for honeybees throughout the years.

“They’re amazing. When a new queen comes into the hive, some will split with her and look for a new home. In the way they flap their wings and move, they tell the others where and how far the new hive will be,” Topor said.

They oppose using toxic sprays to eradicate honeybee swarms that form and move in the late spring and early summer.

Honeybee colonies have been on the decline now for many years, falling in number by 30 percent over the 2010-2011 winter, according to a recently released annual survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Apiary Inspectors of America.

The loss was lower than for the previous winter, 2009-10, which saw a 34 percent drop in honeybee populations. Drops of 30 percent or more per year have been occurring since 2006.

Koziol believes the cause for bee population decline is pollution and toxins.

“Look where we’ve gone, 100 years ago we were on horseback, now we have iPods,” Topor added. “The bees have had the same technology for thousands of years.

“What’s important to me is just don’t kill them.”

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