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Health district, beekeeper move large hive

The Clark County Combined Health District and a local beekeeper are working together to move a massive beehive that spent much of the past year building a wall of honeycomb in a vacant Springfield house.

Sara Dunheath has lived next door to the bee colony in the 1200 block of Innisfallen Avenue for about a year, but until this week, had little luck getting help to remove them. Dunheath, who is allergic to bee stings, became more serious about the issue last fall when she was stung in her bathroom and was hospitalized.

But the last straw was Friday, when thousands of the bees swarmed to look for a new hive and covered the side of her house and the empty home next door.

“They were going everywhere at that point,” Dunheath said.

She called the health district, which in turn contacted the owner of the vacant house. Once health officials secured permission to remove the bees, they called Scott Judy, a local beekeeper.

Judy arrived Tuesday night, and removed thousands of the bees and the honeycomb to take home to his hives.

Health officials were looking for a way to save the bees and help Dunheath resolve the issue, said Dan Chatfield, director of environmental health at the health district.

“We thought it was an important public health issue,” Chatfield said.

Judy said it’s common for bees to split up and seek a new home this time of year.

“It’s swarm season,” he said. “When the bees become overpopulated, they’ll create a queen and they’ll split themselves. It’s just nature’s way of keeping bees around.”

Dunheath said she was grateful for the quick assistance from the health district, although some of the bees appeared to have returned Wednesday.

Terry Lieberman-Smith, a Dayton-area beekeeper and a member of the Ohio State Beekeeper’s Association, said it is not uncommon for bees to set up a nest in an abandoned home. Like raccoons or other animals, bees seek out dry, weather-proof sites.

“I’ve pulled swarms out of tailpipes,” Lieberman-Smith said. “It’s not completely uncommon.”

Removing bees is sometimes difficult, she said. If the honeycomb isn’t removed as well, a different colony could easily move in to replace them.

Often, when residents complain about bees, a pest control company might simply exterminate them.

But bees play an important role in agriculture, Lieberman-Smith said, including pollinating crops. Increasingly, the number of bees are declining across the U.S. due to a variety of factors, including pesticides and parasites like the varroa mite that can weaken and shorten the lifespan of bees.

Instead of calling exterminators, Lieberman-Smith said many beekeepers throughout the region are often happy to remove a swarm of bees that might be a nuisance. Any time the bees can be saved, she said, it’s a good thing.

“If they’ve been there for a while without any human interaction, then that means they’re pretty hardy stock, and we want to keep those lines going,” Lieberman-Smith said.

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