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Bees Tell Workers To BUZZ Off

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Tree falls on home, releases honeybees

By Reece Murphy

A massive oak tree limb that crushed a house in Lancaster Monday morning, Aug. 19, contained a surprise for local first-responders – an equally impressive bee colony.

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The limb – measuring more than three feet in diameter – fell on the small house at 310 N. White St. just after 10 a.m. during heavy rain, according to Lancaster Fire Department Chief Chuck Small.

The two men who lived in the rental home, neither of whom were injured, were still inside trying to stay dry when firefighters arrived.

However, Small said the two were forced to leave due to extensive structural damage to the home.

Small said though it happened during a downpour, he didn’t think  the accident was entirely weather-related since the tree displayed signs of rot – and something else.

“We were just surveying the damage when we got there and noticed the bees,” Small said. “Where the tree had broke, you could see the honeycomb in it. It was a very large one, thousands of bees.

“That was a first there,” he said. “We didn’t bother them, and they didn’t bother us.” 

With the home condemned, the occupants moved into another location thanks to the landlord, and all that was left was to remove the tree.

That required the expertise of Charlotte beekeeper Jimmy Odom of Christmas Trees & Honeybees.

Odom said he worked almost 13 hours Wednesday, Aug. 23, (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to remove the colony. Odom cut the honeycomb into small pieces to direct the bees to a beehive box with the help of pine needle smoke.

“It was just a good strong colony in there at the bottom of the limb where it had broken off the main trunk,” Odom said. “They found a void and they’d made their nest. I’d say there was probably 25,000, maybe 30,000 bees in there.”

Odom said such “natural strongholds” are not uncommon.

In fact, the North White Street call was his third this month to remove bees from trees.

The tree on White Street was larger than most, he said, and it was near ideal for honeybees: approximately three feet in diameter and in a high, easily accessible location.

Though he was unable to save any of the honey in the beehive’s huge comb due to the extraction process, Odom said the bees themselves were taken to his farm in Charlotte, fed sugar water and are “as happy as can be.”

Odom said he was glad he had a chance to successfully remove the bees since native species such as those in the tree are threatened nationwide these days by a host of non-native parasites such as the “varroa mite.”

“The longer we can keep native honeybees going on their own, the longer they have to become resistant to some of these parasites,” he said. “If Re

Odom said he worked almost 13 hours Wednesday, Aug. 23, (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to remove the colony. Odom cut the honeycomb into small pieces to direct the bees to a beehive box with the help of pine needle smoke.

“It was just a good strong colony in there at the bottom of the limb where it had broken off the main trunk,” Odom said. “They found a void and they’d made their nest. I’d say there was probably 25,000, maybe 30,000 bees in there.”

Odom said such “natural strongholds” are not uncommon.

In fact, the North White Street call was his third this month to remove bees from trees.

The tree on White Street was larger than most, he said, and it was near ideal for honeybees: approximately three feet in diameter and in a high, easily accessible location.

Though he was unable to save any of the honey in the beehive’s huge comb due to the extraction process, Odom said the bees themselves were taken to his farm in Charlotte, fed sugar water and are “as happy as can be.”

Odom said he was glad he had a chance to successfully remove the bees since native species such as those in the tree are threatened nationwide these days by a host of non-native parasites such as the “varroa mite.”

“The longer we can keep native honeybees going on their own, the longer they have to become resistant to some of these parasites,” he said. “If there’s one thing I’d ask, it’s that if folks find a hive, don’t get scared and kill them, call a beekeeper.

“Even if it costs you $25 for somebody to come out and get them, at least you’re trying to save them, and all in all, it does good for all of us,” Odom said.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy (803) 283-1151