Union County News

Westfield Beekeeper's Hives in Mountainside Disturbed by Bear Twice

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A bear has been wreaking havoc in the neighborhoods of Mountainside, eating bird feed and coming back for more. A bear is even getting into local beekeeper's hives. Credits: Marianne Jennings
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MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ — Bear sightings in New Jersey in the spring are pretty common, but what do you do when the bear drops by your yard and turns over your beehives?

If you are in the know or the beehives belong to Mickey the Beekeeper, you call him. Last year the local, third-generation beekeeper rescued 10,000 bees that were swarming without a home.

Three weeks ago, he helped a Mountainside family after a bear paid a visit to their yard for a snack from their beehive. "The bear knocked over the hive to get to the leftover honey," he said. The bees stayed in the hive after it was knocked over and "clustered on what's left on the bottom of the box," until he set up the hive again, he said.

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Two nights ago, he caught a swarm on a tree branch in Westfield and brought it up to the Mountainside home to put it in an empty hive on the property, Mickey said.

"The bear came back last night and knocked over that hive," he said. The homeowner called Mickey and he came back and put the box back together again.

The bees are fine despite the bear attacking the hives, he said. Mickey said they stay in the hive and sting the bears to protect the honey, but they can't really stop the bear from having its snack. So, when the bear leaves, the bees cluster together until the hive is put right.  Because the hive is actually a box, the beekeeper just has to put the frames back in the box.

Is there a way to keep the bears away from the hives? Well, either "the bear has to be relocated," Mickey said, or it is time to consider "installing an electric fence around the bee hives. That's what beekeepers have to do ... Basically, you're leaving out a snack for the bears" if you don't do anything to protect the hives.

He expects to be busy in the coming week saving bees.

"The high temperatures this weekend, preceded by a couple of days of rain mark the beginning of swarming season," he said.

If people see a swarm clustered in a tree or on the side of a building, they can contact Mickey the Beekeeper, who does a free swarm removal service to save the honey bees, or go online and find a local beekeeper. Contact Mickey on his bee hotline at 917-740-8009 and don't forget to visit his website: MickeytheBeekeeper.com

Caption: Bears have been sighted running through neighborhoods in Berkeley Heights and Mountainside. Click here to know the facts about bears from New Jersey Division of Fish & Game. 

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