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John Brice removes a 3-pound swarm of bees in a tree in Ortonville. (click for larger version)
June 06, 2012 - John Brice is still buzzing after what he found in a tree near the Brandon Fire Station on South Street.

"I estimate the swarm of bees to be about 30,000 to 35,000," said Brice, an Oxford resident and bee keeper. "The swarm weighed about 6 pounds and I really needed to add them to my hives."

John was contacted last month by his son Doug Brice, a township firefighter, after the mass of bees took up residency in a crabapple tree. The swarm of honey bees in the tree were cordoned off by firefighters to keep passersby from unwanted interaction.

John said bees are a commodity.

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"I use the top bar hive style—I can watch the bees making honey," he said. "They are fascinating creatures and I hope this swarm can get a colony going before winter. I've not always had good luck, it's hard to get them through the winter."

John buys his bees from a supplier in Davison for about $80 for 3 pounds.

"I'm a small time beekeeper and just give the honey away or use it myself—I've not been impacted by problems that may have plagued others."

Over the past few years beekeepers nationwide have been impacted by colony collapse disorder. The honeybee crisis has been riddling millions of colonies nationwide and resulting in the loss of 50 to 90 percent of some keepers' bees for no apparent reason.

"From Michigan's point of view we fared better than the national average in part with the mild weather we had this year," said Mike Hanson, apiary inspector for the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Zachary Huang, associate professor at the department of entomology at Michigan State University, says only a few beekeepers in Michigan reported being hit with CCD.

"Other states have been hit a lot harder," said Huang. The bees' deaths will impact the pollination industry more than the honey business, added Huang.

"The pollination of fruit and vegetables is a $450 million business. That will eventually cost the consumers more than the price of honey. The United States imports plenty of honey."

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