Liberty Bell Beekeepers are on a mission to protect and rescue bees
Instead of extermination, bees can be left alone or relocated.
Bees are as sweet as the honey they produce – and play an essential role in agriculture.
Bees pollinate over 1,000 different plants. Despite their usefulness, the Pennsylvania bee population has declined by 41%.
That’s why Craig McCorkle of Liberty Bell Beekeepers puts his skills and expertise into protecting the Philly area’s honey bee population.
Liberty Bell was a passion project that McCorkle longed to take full-time. Hindered by the pandemic, this year was his year to focus solely on his business. His days now consist of tending to hives and relocating bees that have sought refuge in inconvenient places. Occasionally, his background in construction comes into play, depending on where the bees have decided to build their hives.
McCorkle states that while he occasionally gets extermination calls, the majority of people who reach out to him know how important honeybees are. They want them to be moved to safety. It might appear convenient to kill flying insects with stingers, but bees don’t operate the same as wasps or hornets do.
While honeybees do sting, most of the time stinging is “circumstantial.” He says, “It’s something incidental. You’re barefoot walking across the grass, and there’s one on clover. You step on it, and it stings you.” There are also guard bees, but McCorkle says that they typically sting to defend their home. Unlike wasps, bees can only sting once and die, whereas other flying insects may sting you multiple times.
McCorkle only moves bees in emergency situations, since they are difficult to relocate. Habitat loss is a contributing factor to their decline.
Instead of relocating, McCorkle recommends leaving them alone. It is common to see them on flowers, but sometimes when they’re gathering in the air, people may try to help them. “If you see a swarm show up, oftentimes in the spring, a bowl of bees might be hanging on a branch or the ground. Typically that’s a layover.” During a layover, they may be trying to orient themselves, or they could be taking a break as their colony is relocating. There are occasionally instances when they have been blown off course, and if you aren’t sure whether to intervene, calling a beekeeper may help.
“There are more than enough beekeepers that are happy to come and collect those freebies,” McCorkle states. Until the bees are in a container, they’re free to whoever can use them. “Once they’re in a box, they’re considered livestock. If people tamper with or steal hives, that is a serious offense.” That is why nuisance bees are desirable.
While there is a financial gain for beekeepers to claim your swarm, it can help them to thrive. Their colonies are safe, and any issues will be addressed by the beekeeper. Sometimes, the hive may even need a new queen. An ethical beekeeper will also leave enough honey for the colony instead of taking it all to sell.
Local is the bee’s knees
When purchasing honey, the most ethical choice is shopping locally. McCorkle explains, “Local is typically the best quality since it is the least processed. Heat is the enemy of honey.” The pasteurization of mass-produced honey has its benefits, but it also eliminates the beneficial parts of consuming honey. “ In raw honey, you’re helping your allergies and getting immune system support.”
Liberty Bell Beekeepers serves the Philadelphia area, as well as the suburbs, including South Jersey. McCorkle is always happy to talk bees, and he encourages a call or a text before trying to save the bees on your property.