Saving Pollinators: Bumpers College Student Hutcherson Relocates Bee Swarms

Caleb Hutcherson, an agricultural economics and agribusiness major in Bumpers College, is a registered beekeeper with a honeybee business. He relocates swarms from residential areas to help protect homeowners and pollinators.
Kris Parks

Caleb Hutcherson, an agricultural economics and agribusiness major in Bumpers College, is a registered beekeeper with a honeybee business. He relocates swarms from residential areas to help protect homeowners and pollinators.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It's gardening season and more and more people are out planting, weeding, and taking care of plants, flowers and yardwork.

This means pollinators are out doing their thing as well, which involves moving pollen from one part of a flower to another part, fertilizing the plant.

As gardeners and homeowners move about, bees are on the move as well.

To help facilitate the reproduction of flowers, fruits and vegetables, and maintain habitats and ecosystems, swarms and hives can be relocated, and Caleb Hutcherson can help with that.

Hutcherson is an agricultural economics and agribusiness major in U of A's Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. He's also a beekeeper and works on his family's farm, Pick & Peck Farms in Prairie Grove.

"Honeybee swarms are not highly dangerous under most circumstances," said Hutcherson. "The bees are very gentle in a swarm due to feeding before departure (reduces ability to sting). Honeybees are gentle until they are provoked. I typically move a swarm by searching for the queen in the cluster of bees. Once discovered, I place her in a queen cage and place her between frames of a nucleus colony box. I hold the box near the swarm and all the bees march into the box to be reunited with their queen. Other methods could be used, such as using a bee vac to steadily move the swarm into a bee cage for easy transport."

Hutcherson, who got involved in relocating swarms through the NWA Beekeeping Alliance, recently moved a swarm which had settled in a tree in the backyard of Heather and Kris Parks, a pair of U of A staff employees.

"He told us his bees not only help with propagation on their farm, but also surrounding gardens in their neighborhood," said Heather, Bumpers College project specialist for scholarships, development and external relations. "He rescued four pounds of bees from our tree and transported them to their new home."

"The typical weight of a package of bees that come in the mail when you start beekeeping is three pounds, equivalent to 10,000 bees," said Hutcherson. "The largest swarm I caught was around 40,000 in Fayetteville."

Swarms are crucial to colony reproduction and expansion. Bees are typically docile while in a swarm and will not harm anyone — they are in the process of finding a new home and will move on quickly, but they sometimes relocate to undesirable locations, like the side of a house or in a building.

"It is extremely important to save the world's pollinators," said Hutcherson. "One-third of all food you eat depends on pollinators and more than 100 types of crops are pollinated by bees in the U.S."

Swarms usually happen between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Social distancing and self-quarantining may increase the chances of experiencing a swarm in person.

"What was really interesting is they would swarm and then just disappear," said Kris, an IT project specialist with the U of A System Division of Agriculture Agricultural Experiment Station. "It took us a little while to find them. They were on a branch, balled up around the queen. I had never seen a swarm before, and it was interesting to watch Caleb."

"I got into beekeeping two years ago when my mom came to the farm and told me a woman at work talked her into beekeeping and she mentioned all the equipment to start would be here in a couple of weeks," said Hutcherson. "I began to research and read all I could about beekeeping, and became fascinated with the entire experience. I think the best part is watching a young colony grow and producing gallons of honey to make extra cash in a hobby you love. I currently have 21 hives at the farm."

Hutcherson, who graduated from Farmington High School in 2016, estimates he's been stung 75 to 100 times. Bees release the chemical melittin, which signal pain receptors that burn a few minutes. He's okay with the sacrifice.

"The taste of all-natural honey straight out of the hive is indescribably more nutritional than store-bought honey," said Hutcherson. "Honey bought in stores is micro-filtered and pasteurized, which affects the taste. Purchasing honey from a local beekeeper is so much more beneficial to seasonal allergies as well."

After graduating, Hutcherson plans to grow his honeybee business, C's Bees, go into real estate and work on his family's farm.

Pick & Peck Farms specializes in farm fresh, cage-free eggs, locally grown produce, homemade canning, a hand cut flower garden and yes, honey made from Hutcherson's Arkansas Registered Apiary, all sold at the market cart/roadside at the farm and the Prairie Grove Farmers Market. Items are also available at Ozark Natural Foods.

For more on beekeeping and apiculture, visit the U of A Cooperative Extension Service. Jon Zawislak, extension entomologist and apiary expert with the Cooperative Extension Service, also maintains a blog.

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture. For more information about Bumpers College, visit our website, and follow us on Twitter at @BumpersCollege and Instagram at BumpersCollege.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2.7 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Robby Edwards, director of communications
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences
479-530-4680, robbye@uark.edu

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