The Man Behind The Buzz

Local beekeeper tames angry swarms in exchange for honey-sweet rewards

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Donnie Haught of Star Valley walked out of his house Monday to go roping, just like he normally does, when a swarm of bees stopped him dead in his tracks.


"We have an arena with six horses and six steers," his wife, Julie, said Wednesday. "We had heard about the Africanized bees and we had our three young grandchildren at the house, playing outside."


Haught said her husband was concerned for the safety of the children and the animals.


"I've never seen my husband so upset," she said. "When you see that many it's startling."


The Haughts and their three grandchildren stayed in the house and called the fire department. Firefighters told the couple to call local beekeeper, Jerry Fisher. Fischer, a state-registered beekeeper, rids residents of rogue bees for free. He takes the bees home as his only payment and adds them to his beehives.


When Fisher showed up a half hour after the couple called, the swarm was writhing over a two-foot section of a maple tree branch near the house.


The Haughts gave Fisher permission to cut the branch off, and he carefully placed the swarm -- branch and all -- in a box so he could safely take them to his home in Kohl's Ranch where he keeps 10 hives.


"It's a hobby," said Fisher Thursday. "I've been doing this for about 30 years. We used to do it more for income than we do now."


Fisher said he doesn't charge people to go to their homes or businesses to remove bee swarms.


"One of the reasons I do this is there's a lot of misunderstanding about the Africanized bees," he said. "People have become so terrified."


Fisher said the American bee population has been attacked and reduced by disease, other insects and the use of insecticides.


"We've lost so many honey bees just from natural things and the pesticides," he said. "I used to get 20 to 30 calls a year. Now, we're getting seven or eight calls a year."


Fisher said he has not seen "aggressive" bees in the Payson area. He said he thinks Africanized bees are losing their aggressive edge because they're interbreeding with domestic bees.


"I know the swarms I went out on this year have not been aggressive," he said. "Julie's bees were very docile, very easy-going. They weren't angry because of genetics. They were angry because of the time of day, and because I was removing them from their home.


"They land in the strangest places -- car tires, Safeway's parking lot," he said. "Wherever the queen lands, that's where they go."


For more information, or help removing a swarm of bees, call Fisher at 478-4384.

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