Making a Bee-line to Crooked Creek

Photo By Andrew Byrne | Transferring a swarm from a swarm trap to Langstroth Hives.
February 20, 2020

There’s something buzzing in Armstrong County.

Earlier this year, Crooked Creek Lake partnered with Beekeepers in Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, and Indiana counties (ABCI) to study feral bee swarms. The goal of the partnership is to study and monitor the bees’ behavior and maintain a man-made beehive.

The man-made hive, also known as an apiary, not only benefits local pollinators and the bee population balance, but also enables beekeepers to collect honey and other products, pollinate crops, and produce bees which can be sold to other beekeepers. The study seeks to locate, sample, and monitor feral bee colonies.

The project began in early May 2019, during the primary swarm trapping season. Late spring is best to initiate a swarm study because overpopulated hives force bees to seek new hives with lower populations.

Four swarm traps were deployed to Crooked Creek’s property and caught four feral swarms within the first month of the project. Out of the four swarms captured, three were sent for testing at Penn State to analyze the swarms’ behaviors, pollinator health, and hygiene tendencies. The beekeepers also enlisted Penn State’s Department of Entomology to aid in analyzing the findings.

Experts say, over the past 15 years bee colonies have been disappearing across the world with some regions losing as much as 90 percent of the population causing what they describe as “colony collapse disorder”. The bees captured and analyzed at Crooked Creek will provide valuable insight into this disorder.