SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) — Honeybees are a lot like South Dakotans. They're hard-working and industrious, they have an agricultural based economy, they all strive to work for the greater good, and they're pretty easygoing until their home or loved ones are threatened. So it makes sense that South Dakota is the second largest honey producer in the country, based on a 2016 USDA study.

That means South Dakota has a lot of bees. Sometimes those bees can show up in some very inconvenient places, and that's where the Crowley family can come to the rescue.

Carl and Kiah Crowley, owners of Sunrise Hives, and their 8-year-old son, Rowan, are beekeepers who live in Spearfish. They are committed to responsible honey harvesting and honeybee preservation. The Crowleys not only raise honeybees in their hives in St. Onge, they also rescue and relocate honeybees from unwanted areas like homes and businesses. Recently, they were called out to Recreation Station, Inc. in Spearfish to help them with an unwanted swarm.

"We had a (group) of bees that was just swarming around one of our palm trees here at our new store," Shawn Darling, owner of Recreation Station, Inc., said. "One of the guys that works here called somebody that he knew from Sunrise Hives, and they came out and did whatever they do."

What they do is actually a very simple and gentle method of relocation, the Black Hills Pioneer reported.

"He (Carl) literally just set a (bee) box down right next to it," Kiah Crowley said. "And they just came walking in single file."

The Crowleys explained that honeybees swarm when they're looking for a location to start a new hive. When an established hive becomes too crowded to sustain the population, drones will be sent out to scout for a new location, and once a location is found, the drones return for the queen. The drones lead the queen to their new home, and around 60 percent of the hive will follow. The remaining 40 percent are left with a new queen born out of royal jelly, and the old hive is repopulated while the new hive continues to grow. The queen is the key, Carl said.

"So that colony (at Recreation Station, Inc.), they obviously swarmed from somewhere," he explained. "Finally made it to the tree, it was shook off the tree onto the rock, and wherever the queen is located in there, wherever she falls to, or if you can physically shake her into a box, and then you can set the box down, and then those bees that are up flying around in the tree, lost, they will actually smell her, and by the end of the day, all the bees will be in that box."

According to the Crowleys, it's a simple matter of providing the bees with what they're looking for: A safe place to protect their queen and grow their colony.

"They say they won't even really sting you," Kiah said. "They're just so worried about (the queen) and trying to protect her, they're not even worried about anything else."

Of course the Crowleys don't recommend just anyone walk into a swarm of bees and try to locate the queen. They say if people notice a hive in an unwanted area such as a home or business, they should contact a local beekeeper. The Crowleys themselves are always happy to come to a location where honeybees are spotted and relocate them at no cost.


Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com