Vegetable Festival

IMG_2246 (533x800) Bee swarm cancels events at North Pole Grange

Front page story of Fairbanks Daily News Miner- Friday, August 15th

FAIRBANKS – There’s been a buzz surrounding the North Pole Grange lately, but it’s not the kind that leaders at the community gathering spot wanted.

Indoor events at the Grange Hall have been canceled for the weekend after a swarm of honeybees was discovered living above the front door of the building. Leaders of the nonprofit organization are pausing while they figure out how to deal with the aggressive hive.

Grange President John Poirrier said he’d noticed a few bees flying around the area recently, but became concerned when one of them buzzed his grandson while he was mowing the yard a few days ago. The boy, who is allergic to bees, was sent running by the attack.

“One of them took off after him and wouldn’t leave him alone,” Poirrier said. “It was funny and scary at the same time.”

The incident convinced Poirrier to cancel a series of events this weekend at the Grange Hall. An art show today and Saturday was scrapped, along with a dance on Saturday. A weekend jellies and jams competition, as well as a vegetable dish competition and potluck, will also be canceled.

A giant cabbage weigh-in scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday will be still held outside the Grange Hall.

Poirrier said it hasn’t been determined what will be done to get rid of the hive. Commercial wasp spray didn’t do anything to deter the swarm of about 100 bees, and a consultation with a bee expert determined that the roof would likely need to be cut into to extract the hive.

Only a tiny portion of the population is highly allergic to bee stings — less than 1 percent — but those who are can have a severe reaction that includes a sudden drop in blood pressure and system collapse, said Michael Cooper, the infectious disease program manager for Alaska Public Health.

For most of the healthy adult population, a sting only involves a painful reminder.

“It’s really a nuisance factor for people without that allergic reaction unless you get a whole lot of stings,” Cooper said.

The late summer swarm at the Grange hasn’t had enough time to gather honey and wouldn’t be able to survive the winter, but Poirrier said officials will do something to remove the bees rather than let nature run its course.

He’s confident the problem will be dealt in time for a planned September art show to proceed as scheduled.

“I’m sure I’ll have it dealt with effectively by next month,” Poirrier said.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness.

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