Home & Garden

Call a Charlotte beekeeper if you spot a honeybee swarm

A honeybee swarm gathers on a tree branch.
A honeybee swarm gathers on a tree branch. STEVE MONTGOMERY

It was April when I first saw a honeybee swarm. I was shopping at Wing Haven’s spring plant sale on a lovely morning a few years ago when someone pointed at the house next door.

Soon many of us were staring at the fidgety, oddly shaped brown mass outside a second-story window.

The experts knew what to do: They called a swarm squad.

“Don’t spray them, don’t kill them,” said Steve Montgomery, one of the beekeepers in Mecklenburg County’s honeybee swarm removal directory.

You’re more likely to see swarms on your property in March through April, Montgomery said. The worst thing you could do is call an exterminator, he said. Beekeepers often will remove honeybees at no cost, as long as the swarm is easy to reach.

“Normally I just want the bees,” said Montgomery, 54. “The honey is kind of secondary to the spiritual component – they bring a good energy. They do so much to positively impact the environment and they pollinate like you can’t believe.”

Montgomery removed about 15 swarms last year. A few weeks ago he removed a swarm in Plaza Midwood. It was hanging from a tree limb about 20 feet from the front door.

He cut the limb, dropped it into a bucket and took the bees home with him to Elizabeth, where he keeps some of his seven hives. Montgomery extracted and produced about 350 pounds of honey last year, but he believes the whole community benefits from his hives.

One neighbor told him their street had more flower blossoms than she’d seen in her 40 years there. He’s heard another neighbor’s pecan tree is producing bucketfuls.

“I like to think having that many bees in such a small area could positively impact the planet,” he said.

Karen’s blog: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/home-garden/smarter-living/homelife-blog/; on Twitter @sullivan_kms. See earlier Homelife columns at http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com.