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The Globe and Mail

When bees attack? Huge swarms spotted in New York

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Honey bees are invading pockets of New York: Our first reaction should be huge relief that they are still around and in apparent abundance after years of concern about severely declining bees populations. Yet with hot spells across North America and honey bees buzzing around our flower beds, panic has set in over news reports about unruly swarms. Let the bee news season begin!

The New York Times recently reported on the unusually active number of swarms around the Big Apple this spring,  including a sagging swarm the size of a woman's handbag hanging low over pedestrians' heads in a tree on the Lower East Side.  A NYPD officer who handles bee complaints has seen double the number of incidents of homeless swarms this year compared to last, all blamed mainly on the warmer weather, but also on beekeeping hobbyists poorly managing hives throughout the city.

It's a familiar story. The press' bee beat included a story this time last year of a swarm of thousands of honey bees outside a condo complex in Kelowna, B.C. (It received national attention.) A RCMP officer subdued the swarm with puffs of smokes,  becoming more beekeeper than peacekeeper.

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And there's always the occasional piece about accidents with trucks carrying beehives and thousands of angry, stinging passengers swarming into the open air, leading the driver to promise half-heartedly that he'll never transport a load of bees again.

But let's focus on the positive here. Besides the essentialness of bees to our planet, there's the communal aspect of city folk gathering around the spectacle of an urban hive. It's a sign of spring, a sign of warm weather, a sign that there's more around us than our own busy, buzzing lives.

What do you think: Are huge swarms of bees a blessing or just a killer cloud?

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