While Hillsboro police officer Tim Hopper is used to keeping his community safe, this past week he’s been catching a more unusual suspect.
“I’ve probably collected four or five swarms of bees just this past week,” said Hopper.
Two of those swarms have been collected at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro, where bees tend to swarm in a corner of the roof on the north side. Hopper said they collect swarms of 4,000 to 5,000 bees two to three times a year from the building.
According to Hopper, each spring swarms break off to continue to reproduce the genetics of that line. As a new queen bee takes over, the old queen leaves with about half the hive.
“It’s important to give them a home and help them stay alive,” Hopper said. “They are the pollinators of our food, like fruits and vegetables.”
Hopper, who got his start in the beekeeping business about five years ago from fellow police officer John Stretch, has close to 30 hives in Hillsboro, Litchfield, Coffeen and Irving. He estimates each hive contains as many as 50,000 bees.
“I’ve really been fascinated by bees,” he said. “For such a little bitty insect, they are so smart and what they do is so intricate.”
Hopper keeps some of his hives on pollinator plots in the area, as they also help to pollinate food for wildlife in the area.
“It keeps the area more abundant,” Hopper said. “I don’t want to keep all my hives in one spot. Each hive needs about an acre of ground to feed.”
Hopper said there are about 20 to 30 beekeepers in the county. Prior to the pandemic, the group met monthly to share ideas and tips.
He added the swarms will stop moving toward the end of May as the bees begin to make honey. Hopper sells his Booh Bees honey at Paris Frozen Foods and Stretch sells honey at Bosscotech in downtown Hillsboro.
“The main thing I want to let people know is if you see a ball of bees in a tree or somewhere else, don’t spray it with water or bother it,” Hopper said. “If you call the local police, they will be able to call local beekeepers and get the swarm moved safely.”