A week ago I received a call from Gavin, my bee buddy, about a wild hive in a local tree. The bees had made their home in the hollow trunk of a poplar tree, one of a row of trees that were all marked to be removed as part of a native revegitation activity by Marrickville Council.
The arborists were up for helping remove the hive, as long as some beekeepers were ready to deal with the actual bees.
The starting point was to take off the top of the tree, which the arborist did at the highest point he could reach. The hollow extended past the fork of the tree, and a small number of bees immediately started using their new hive access…
With the support of the on-truck crane, the arborist (equipped with a borrowed veil) cut through the base of the tree. It was then laid down on the ground, read for us to start work.
It was amazing to see how rotted out the tree was, and apparently this is a common problem with poplars. (Of note, there’s research that says that bees benefit from fungi, which assists their immune systems.)
Once the tree was on the ground, I started vacuuming up the bees using a ‘beevac’. This is essentially the same as a sawdust collector that catches material before it gets to the vacuum cleaner, only in this case it’s a collector for bees. (Sorry, no photo of this, I was too busy using the beevac!)
With the further assistance of the brave aborist, we opened up the hive, by chainsawing off slices of the trunk. We were then able to cut out and remove the comb, which was a mix of brood and honey.
Once we’d worked our way along the full length of the trunk, it became fully apparent how large the hive was. It was a very healthy colony, with no signs of pests or diseases, and plenty of activity.
Once finished, we emptied the box of vacuumed-up bees into a Kenyan top-bar hive, along with the brood comb. We then left the bees to hopefully settle into their new home.
What surprised everyone was how relaxed the bees were. Despite attacking their home with a chainsaw over the period of an hour, they didn’t go on attack. The aborist received one minor sting on his wrist where his glove had pulled up, but there were otherwise no stings at all.
A truly amazing morning, and great experience for a new beekeeper such as myself.
(Postscript: the bees decided they didn’t like their new home, and the flew away the following day. Ah well, at least they were saved from the woodchipper, and hopefully they’ll find themselves another good home. Better luck next time for us beekeepers!)