Bee experts share advice for peaceful co-existence

When Carol Pouy and Kathi Quinn get a call about bees, they think first toward education. Both Pouy and Quinn have spent the last eight years working together to educate and preserve some our areas smallest, but hardest workers: honey bees.

Spring is their busiest time, with calls coming in after being routed from the universities and wildlife rescue groups. Both women are known for their expertise on being able to take bees that have found homes in or around homeowners who weren’t looking to have extra boarders. “We screen our requests, because we don’t do demolition or go through people’s walls to get bees,” said Pouy. “We determine if they are honeybees: gold and fuzzy-looking, usually around a tree trunk or forming a big ball.”

Some people may mistake one lonely bee as a precursor to a hive, but if it’s solitary and bigger, it’s usually a
bumblebee, happy to examine your mesquite and willow trees. According to both of them, our area is not prone to
Yellow Jackets — members of the wasp family — like the East Coast from where Pouy is originally.

“People tend to worry about swarms,” said Quinn. “Usually they’ll see them and go for the pesticides, but they’re just looking for a new home and are sending scouts out to find it. They’re only in the area for a few hours to a
day.”

What they have started to see more in the area are Africanized bees; bees with a vicious and aggressive nature that
don’t adhere to the “rules” that regular bees tend to operate under. “Honeybees have rules, you can approach them from the back of the hive,” said Quinn. “If we walk away from them, even if we’ve riled them up, taken apart the
hive to look for evident of moths or mice, they just follow you for a few paces. Africanized bees will follow you for blocks.”

Pouy recounted a story of being chased for two miles in a truck by a hive of Africanized bees, only to return to have the swarm waiting by the fence for her return. “They’re too mean to die,” said Pouy. “We ask people who call us about their behavior if they’re unpredictable like wasps,” said Quinn. “If it’s a ‘hot’ hive, we ask them to call an exterminator to have it put down.”

Pouy and Quinn typically work with Russian and Italian bees and order their queens specifically to make a good hive. “They follow the lead of the queen: if Momma’s not happy, nobody is happy,” said Quinn. Standard tips apply: don’t agitate a bee if it’s just buzzing around you and checking you out, but be careful if you smell like lemon Pledge as stings gives off an odor similar to the household cleaner to let others know you might be a threat to the hive.

If you have been stung, don’t just pull out the stinger. “Don’t grab the stinger, grab a credit card. Scrape the stinger out in the opposite direction that the stinger is going in to make sure it doesn’t release more poison,” said Pouy.

Bees offer a side benefit from their essential role of pollinating our crops. After heavy pollen seasons in Las Cruces, both Quinn and Pouy recommend the most natural — and likely tastiest way — to desensitize yourself from
the runny noses and sneezing: eating local honey. Once you are able to familiarize your body to local pollen, you are likely to suffer less from allergies.

Honey tastes like the area it’s from, but can vary even depending on the side of town and what the bees have to work with. “They eat whatever is blooming within two and a half miles. We have alfalfa so we have a flowery taste,” said Quinn. “But if you have clover fields, it’ll taste more like clover.” It also depends on the time of year, with later batches being lighter and crystallizing quickly. They recommend then just boiling the jarred honey (always to be kept in a glass jar) in water to re-melt it to its former consistency.

thumb2They also have some tips when buying honey. “Don’t buy heated honey, it pasteurizes it and lowers the quality. Buy 100 percent local raw honey,” said Pouy. “We’re also starting to see honey from China cut with oil.” Both Pouy and Quinn sell their honey at the Farmer’s Market, however, they’re already sold out for the year, both due to demand and to a lack of supply.

Pouy and Quinn give demonstrations of their equipment to anyone who is interested, most recently in May at the Farmer’s Market at Ardavino’s Desert Crossing in El Paso. They show how interested and budding beekeepers can get started, by buying a local nuclear set of workers and queen and a small easily-constructed hive. They show off their beekeeping suits and the iconic smoker, which helps calm bees when they go to inspect the hives for the main
terrors, moths and mice.

“The drought has been bad,” said Pouy and Quinn added, “And without bees, we have no food source.” They admit that their hives haven’t been as strong as they have in the past, sometimes happening when they loan out their bees to farmers and those farmers use pesticides. “When you try to kill pests, you kill bees,” said Quinn.

To get more information about Pouy and Quinn’s bee rescue, or have some visitors in your backyard you’d like to find a new home for, call 233-3372.