The Santa Barbara Zoo and Super Bee Rescue have worked together for several years to save bees that have taken up residence on Zoo grounds.
One of the largest and most difficult removals was an old beehive located 35 feet above the ground in a palm tree. Woodpeckers had excavated inside the palm for nesting, and when they abandoned it, the bees moved in. The hive was estimated to be 5,000 plus bees, and they had multiple entrances and exits thanks to the woodpeckers.
The palm tree had died and needed to be removed, but the tree trimmers were unable to work with bees present. The hive was a difficult puzzle as it was so high off the ground, and because of the number of people in close proximity to its location.
The Zoo did not want to harm the bees because of their importance to the environment, so Abel Landeros, the head of the Zoo’s maintenance team, called my company, Super Bee Rescue, to safely remove and save the bees.
Honeybees pollinate one-third of our food and many wildflowers. They are important pollinators, and also serve as a “canary in the coal mine” early warning sign of environmental distress.
Last year, beekeepers lost approximately 44% of their bees. This decline is due to several factors, such as Colony Collapse Disorder, which are explained in the movies “Vanishing of the Bees” and “More Than Honey.”
The most alarming fact is that this high level of dieoff is not sustainable. So every hive is precious.
Nick uses a smoker (blue box) which masks the alarm pheromone and calms the bees.
Chasing the bees away from the tree by spraying a bee repellant.
We began work at night to block all the entrances while the bees were safely inside the tree. The palm was then cut and lowered, controlling its location and speed as much as possible.
Then, the tree was split open like a piggy bank and the bees and brood (baby bees) were placed in a normal hive. A special piece of equipment called a bee vacuum allows us to suck up the bees without hurting them. We are able to control the suction in order to keep them safe.
The new hive was relocated to my Carpinteria ranch to be nursed back to health. Bee moving day is always tough on the bees, as we have to disassemble and reassemble the entire beehive. They then need to rebuild the comb. We aim for a 95% or higher survival rate. When the hive is healthy and strong, they are either moved to an organic avocado ranch or purchased by a backyard beekeeper.
It is rare to encounter a swarm of bees, but it has been considered a blessing since medieval times. These days, many people feel fear when a hive shows up and unfortunately call a pest control company, which exterminates the bees.
Instead, please show the bees respect and keep your distance. If they need to be moved, please call a beekeeper. If it is an emergency, complicated, or in a difficult location, call an expert bee removal company.
There are many wonderful plantings all around the Zoo which support pollinators, and often you can see them busily working, just off the walkways. Take a look next time you are at the Zoo.
Nick Wigle is the owner of Super Bee Rescue (www.superbeerescue.com, (805) 684-9999).