PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — As we watched the swarm of bees starting their journey into a removal vacuum, this sight - and the inevitable stings - was just another day on the job for Uwe Rusch, a professional beekeeper tasked with relocating a large hive of bees from our primary Fox 4 transmitter. He says he’s been keeping bees since he was a kid growing up in Munich.
“I was four years old when I started beekeeping with my uncle. He was actually a war prisoner in Siberia. He got caught in Kursk as a young 18-year-old soldier,” Rusch recalled.
Captured in the Battle of Kursk during World War II, Rusch says one of his uncle's responsibilities in the camp was tending beehives. When he was released seven years later, a soldier gave him two beehives to care for and that started a beekeeping legacy.
Rusch said his childhood was spent in the woods, learning the ins and outs of beekeeping, thanks to his uncle. He says this early exposure cultivated his deep love for the remarkable insects and, ultimately, led to a lifelong passion to keep them alive.
Studies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that more than one-third of all crop production requires insect pollination, so, Rusch says relocating rather than killing bees is critical.
“We save them alive, then we quarantine them for a certain time. After that, we take them to a safe habitat; mostly in mango, lychee, or palm farms in Bokeelia,” Rusch explained.
Before getting released, Rusch said the USDA requires feral bees to get quarantined to ensure they don’t carry any diseases.
To remove the bees, Rusch begins by locating the hive with a temperature gun, then drawing the bees out with noise and a lure containing queen pheromones, lemongrass, and honey. He then uses a special vacuum, on low pressure, to gently capture the bees, ensuring minimal harm. This method saves 60 to 80 percent of the bee population.
“Then I see how many bees I have, and if I have enough that I know they can survive alone for one or two weeks without a queen, then I seal the hive,” said Rusch.
Even without a queen captured, through a process called splitting, Rusch said the relocated bees can create a queen to rule the new hive by feeding larvae “royal jelly” to change their genetics. He says, even though they’re a resilient insect, they still need our help.
“Save bees and they will thank you by pollinating and giving us fruits, vegetables, and a good life,” Rush proudly stated.
In a time where every buzz matters, Rusch’s motto, “we save the bees and the world”, highlights how important this process is to preserving nature’s delicate balance.