Photos: Bee Expert Talks Swarms, Safety to Plymouth Council
Maryann Frazier, a honeybee specialist at Penn State, offered advice to the township as it works to develop beekeeping regulations.
Beekeeping was once again on the agenda at Tuesday’s Plymouth Township Council meeting, as the body invited Maryann Frazier, a honeybee specialist at Penn State, to share her expertise on the subject.
The hobby has become a hot topic in Plymouth, ever since the Shaffer family of 1435 Sandwood Drive, Conshohocken, installed two honeybee colonies in their backyard earlier this year, prompting neighbors to take their concerns over allergies, safety, and property values to Plymouth Council.
Chair Sheldon Simpson framed the presentation by stating that council typically gives 20 minutes to any developer or outside entity that wishes to address the township, and emphasized that council was not working to ban bees.
"This council is not out to ban beekeeping by any means," Simpson said. "There's two sides here; one is that people believe that they have the right to have bees. There's also the other side that people believe they have a right to keep their property the way it is, without intrusion from their neighbors. That's where we're at-- we're not trying to ban anything."
While Frazier mainly supported beekeeping in her presentation and worked to allay the fears of residents regarding bees, she did say that she agreed with some of their concerns.
"There are 330 species of bees in Pennsylvania. There are 14 species of yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps," said Frazier. "Those things are present in our environment like birds and butterflies… regardless of bees and beekeepers. So while we may be able to regulate beekeepers and the presence of hives, we can't regulate the presence of these stinging insects."
Frazier then echoed the sentiments of past beekeeping supporters, saying that individuals truly concerned with bees and allergies should keep an EPI-pen with them at all times, and remove flowering plants or weeds from their lawn in order to avoid stepping on the insects. Frazier also said that the great majority of bee stings come from physical contact with hives, and suggested that all honeybee hives be secured with a solid fence to prevent intrusion and to force the bees to fly upward into the air.
However, Frazier said that pools do present a problem.
"Bees are interested in water sources that have minerals and/or things like chlorine," Frazier said. "So you should try to supply water sources that are more attractive than the neighborhood pool."
Councilman Dean Eisenberger also brought up concerns over swarming, adding that the police were called to Sandwood Drive over Memorial Day weekend when a large swarm flew onto an adjacent property.
"We've been told and educated that bees become docile during that time," Eisenberger said. "Well you tell that [to residents], when there's a hundred thousand bees in a neighborhood on a Saturday, when the beekeeper is not there."
Frazier responded by saying that there is no way to completely prevent swarming, which occurs when part of a honeybee colony exits in order to begin a new colony or reproduce. Instead, Frazier said beekeepers should properly inspect their hives to minimize swarming, and that a beekeeping contact list be created in the event of a swarm.
A number of beekeepers told Patch after the meeting that one method to prevent swarming is to clip the wings of the queen bee so that she cannot leave the colony, and that a beekeeper can collect a swarm in minutes simply by presenting an empty box to the bees.
Bernie Brady, a next-door neighbor of the Shaffers who has spoken out with concerns over the colonies, was offered a chance to speak after Frazier's presentation. Brady declined the offer, but did present a poster board to council containing various images of the Memorial Day swarm (which are also viewable in this article’s media section).
Simpson said that the township continues to tweak a draft ordinance, and that council would likely vote on the matter in November at the earliest.
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