Bee swarm settles in, closes road

LIHU’E — A swarm of honeybees descended upon Grove Farm Golf Course Monday,

forced the temporary closure of one of the entrances to the course from about

the lunch hour until late in the afternoon when a beekeeper could remove

them.

Chas Danbury, a beekeeper from Kilauea, said the bees normally swarm

in the warmer months. Apparently, what happened to this swarm, which was

seeking a site for a new hive, was that a passing car hit the queen, knocking

her onto the ground, he said.

Because the queen, who was close to death,

was sending out her scent, the remainder of the swarm — estimated in the

thousands — remained with her. With the queen so close to death, most of the

swarm was disoriented but refused to stop protecting her, Danbury

explained.

Before the grounded swarm was discovered shortly after 11 a.m.,

several other motorists had run over the gathering, creating an even higher

death toll as dead bees littered the intersection leading to the golf course

and the four-lane Kukui Grove Road. The remaining bees hovered about the group

while others huddled about the stricken queen and fallen comrades, their bodies

and wings in constant motion.

State Department of Health personnel

monitored the situation along with maintenance workers from Kukui Grove

Shopping Center, who coned off the intersection and placed yellow cautio’ tapes

to mark off the closed area that was peppered with flying bees.

Ferdinand

Lagundino, one of the Kukui Grove workers, maintained a vigil, warning people

about getting too close.

J. Robertson, the shopping center’s promotions

manager, also made several trips to the site, concerned about the Monday

Farmers’ Market which fills the parking lot on the opposite side of Kukui Grove

Road.

When swarms light, they can stay “10 minutes, an hour, two days,”

said Leroy Tangalin, supervisor of vector control for the health department on

Kaua’i. The length of their visit depends on whether they pose a threat to

people. Officials said there was no high risk of danger yesterday, despite the

nearby businesses and motorists.

Kukui Grove management contacted

professional beekeepers to have the swarm removed, and Danbury was the first to

respond.

While unaware golfers, shoppers and motorists went about their

business, bees continued to buzz about the area. Danbury explained that in the

swarming process, bees gorge themselves on enough honey to last two or three

days and were therefore “sedated on honey.” This kept them from aggressively

going after intruders in the area, he said.

As Danbury placed the injured

queen bee into one of the bee boxes he uses to collect swarms, he noted that if

the hive had already been established, the nature of the bees would be more

aggressive because they would be protecting their established territory.

“I

didn’t even know about them (the bees),” one diner at the PuaKea Grill said

while peeking at the coned-off area from the safety of one of the restaurant’s

windows. “My car is almost right there. No one told us anything.”

Danbury

said yesterday’s swarm were not the “killer” bees that have been reported on

the mainland.

As the excitement wore down, Danbury used a smoke gun to urge

the remaining bees into the box. However, he noted that all of the bees could

not be collected.

If the situation had happened off the roadway, he said

he would leave the box for a period of time or until sunset when all the bees

return, which would allow them to gather in their new home. However, due to

the need to reopen the roadway, he collected whatever he could using the smoke

gun.

The remaining bees, he explained, would either return to the hive they

started out from, or find another hive to join. But, if left at the site with

their ailing queen, the swarm would’ve been doomed to extinction as the worker

bees would not abandon their queen.

The collection process complete, the

roadway and intersection were reopened shortly before 4:30 p.m.

There were

no reports of anyone being stung by the bees. An employee at the golf course

said the presence of the bees had no effect on business.

If bees swarm in

yards or other areas frequented by people, “keep away from them. And don’ t

swat at them or antagonize them,” Tangalin said.

Staff writer Dennis

Fujimoto can be reached at 245-3681. Editor Pat Jenkins contributed to this

report.

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