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Islander works to keep bee populations alive

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Feb 17, 2021

Wayne Owen tends to his bees on his island property. PHOTO PROVIDED


When someone’s home becomes overrun by honeybees, many people may use that as evidence that the world has such a large bee population they have taken to setting up camp in residential areas, but bee rescuers like Wayne Owen would argue the opposite is true. Due to overdevelopment, pesticides and a number of factors he considers in his work every day, honeybees are disappearing from our planet at an alarming rate.

“Without the bees, we’re not going to eat,” said Owen, who claims there is pollination work being done with robotic drone bees, although they cannot produce honey.

In Owen’s work, homeowners often call to have unwanted bee colonies removed, in which case he cuts the entire colony from the premises, brings it to his own home and allows the colony to thrive again. In one case, he reports to have saved a colony, which then split twice within eight days.

“I’m saving them from naïve homeowners, that don’t know the difference between bees and wasps,” said Owen.

Although he admits for some people a sting can result in an anaphylactic reaction, he says on the whole, honeybees in particular are not out to sting, except as a last resort or if the queen is in jeopardy. According to Owen, the African honeybee is a fairly aggressive species, although, he says if you fail to spend time with your bees they will also become aggressive.

“I know my bees and my bees know me,” said Owen. “I can stand out in the yard and hand feed them with a sizeable handful of bees and they won’t sting me, in fact you can feel them licking the honey out of your hand.”

All of Owen’s knowledge has come from his passion and firsthand experience dealing with bees, as he admits he’s the kind of person who must dive into something, rather than reading about it. He began rescuing bees as a hobby, and fell in love with the idea of keeping his own hives. He approximates that he currently has 80,000 to 100,000 bees in one colony alone.

“One day and I went outside to find a cluster of bees in my fruit tree that was the most gigantic colony I’d ever seen,” said Owen of his beginning journey. “If I would have known what I know now, I could have just reached up and scraped them off into a box. After that I started learning how to keep bees.”

He credits his beginning education to a fellow islander who was happy to share his knowledge with Owen, who has now been at the bee game for five years. Just in the time he has been keeping bees he says you can see a notable deterioration in their numbers. This, in his opinion, is due to insecticides, and development on the land causing them to migrate into residential areas.

“We are our own worst enemies,” said Owen. “I have my bees right up in the front of my property and I have called Mosquito Control and asked them to please not come down here to spray. Human interaction is causing their dwindle, you don’t have to be a scientist to figure that out.”