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Downtown Vicksburg abuzz with swarm of bees

Downtown Vicksburg was abuzz Friday — literally — thanks to a swarm of bees that descended on the Merle Norman building, located at 1221 Washington Street.

The swarm was first noticed by building owner Sharon Robinson on Thursday evening when the bees entered the building through the wall and were buzzing around the chandeliers and ceiling medallions adorning the Merle Norman store.

“The Queen Bee is leaving, and so all the worker bees are in a tizzy,” Robinson said. “I can’t believe it, but we’ve got honey at Merle Norman.”

Merle Norman employee Dixie Ellis described the swarm as a “cloud of bees.”

“They were everywhere in the store, and towards the evening, they started to pile up,” Ellis said. “I think (the beekeeper) said it was around 15,000 bees in this swarm.”

On Friday, Robinson called local beekeeper Crorey Lawton, of Company Bee Honeybee Removals.

By noon, Lawton and his team had removed three boxes of bees and counting. He had to climb nearly 25 feet up a ladder to reach them, brush the bees into a plastic box and bring them back down to his truck bed.

This is the second bee swarm sighting in the last couple weeks; previously, a swarm of honeybees was spotted near a tree at the Watermark building downtown, according to onlookers.

After the majority of the bees were safely transported to their new home, Lawton confirmed Robinson’s explanation of events surrounding the swarm.

“The queen bee was laying between 1,000 and 2,000 eggs per day, and when the bees fill up the space, she lays eggs in the queen cells so she can be replaced. And then, she leaves and takes half the hive with her,” Lawton said. “She leaves the other half to raise the queens until they come of age.

“Then, the elder queen goes and takes her followers and finds her new home. We just interrupted this process,” he said.

Because the queen bee is pregnant, Lawton explained, she can’t fly more than 100 to 200 yards at a time. So, the queen bee deployed scouts to find her and her followers a suitable home, and when they were spotted outside Merle Norman, the queen bee was waiting for the scouts to return.

Thankfully, Lawton said, he was able to capture the queen bee in the third boxful of bees. She emits pheromones, which attracted even more bees to follow her.

“It’s like lasagna in the oven,” he said.

No bees were harmed, and the remaining bees will soon be safely trapped out and transported by Lawton. It’s imperative that all the bees and traces of the hive are removed, so as to not attract other insects, animals or more bees.

“If it even smells like bees, there’s a chance of reinfestation,” he said.

Beekeeping and honoring the space honeybees hold in the ecosystem is “magical,” Lawton said, adding that he’s thrilled to give them a new home.

“The bees are safely ensconced in an orchard in Bovina,” he said. “They’re such amazing creatures.”

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