Bee swarm problems on the rise in Portland


by Katherine Cook / KGW

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 8:57 AM

PORTLAND -- It's swarming season for honey bees in the Portland Metro area and problems were on the rise in local communties.

On Sunday, Janelle Gorsuch had about 20,000 unexpected visitors outside her Eastmorland home.

"I didn't know what to think!"  Said Gorsuch, who watched the bees form a hive on one of her Japanese maples, breaking two branches in the process.  "My first thought was to get everyone inside until we figured out it was safe," she said.

Gorsuch did what many in her situation have done:  She called Milwaukie bee keeper, Jim Barlean.

"If somebody calls and says they have a swarm, I'll drop what I'm doing and I'm in my truck," said the 73-year-old Barlean.  In his 30 years as a bee keeper, Barlean has collected about 80 hives, which he uses to produce honey and preserve the bees' role in nature.

"Three out of five bites of food that you're eating from the grocery store came from these bees," said Barlean.  They pollinate the fruit and all the berries here in Oregon."

In the last two weeks, Barlean has rescued 68 hives, mostly in Southeast Portland.  He's also had several calls from Oaks Amusement Park, where a pineapple-shaped hive was forming on a tree Sunday night.
"(The bees) just come in, clump above everyone's heads and then they just take off," said park security guard, Michael Pankratz.  "Last week we had to shut down a couple rides while we had a hive removed," he said.

"They go wherever they want to go," added park operations manager, George Kolibaba, who said he planned to have Barlean remove the hive on Monday.  "It's high enough in the tree that it's not bothering anyone now," he said.

The bees in the Gorsuch's yard were docile, resulting in a single sting.  But earlier in the day, Barlene said he had been stung about 50 times while removing two other hives.

"The bee stings don't hurt me," quipped the retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant.  "I'm tough."