Several thousand bees are getting a new home, thanks to the quick thinking of a tree trimming crew and Spring Hill home owners.
Kim Deffenbaugh, Spring Hill, knew a hive lived in the trunk of a 100-year-old tree in her front yard, and when it was time for the dead tree to be removed, she sought help in relocating the hundreds of thousands of bees that called the tree home.
Todd Preator, owner of Save the Bee Rescue Company, estimated 100,000 bees shared living space with the Deffenbaughs. On May 22, he served as a moving company of sorts for the hive.
He set up nuc boxes, a box that holds part of a bee hive, filling the boxes with honeycomb from the hive. The honeycomb attracted bees to the boxes. Then, Preator used a vaccum to suck bees directly out of the truck to the hive with a goal of securing the queen bee. Typically, Preator doesn’t necessarily see the queen, when he uses the vacuum to assist in moving a hive. He knows he got her from the Spring Hill tree truck, though.
“I just happened to see her right before I sucked her up,” Preator said.
Once he’d removed thousands of bees from the tree, he loaded nuc boxes and buckets filled with honeycomb onto the back of his truck.
Preator said the bees will be given a new home on a 28-acre farm near Independence, Mo.
“It’s a bee safe environment with no harmful stuff within 8-10 miles,” he said.
The hive will survive if the queen begins laying. Survival of bees is key, he explained.
Much of the food humans eat is dependent on bees, which pollinate crops. Since the 1990s, experts have noted a severe drop off in the number of honey bees and a high death rate in the smallest farm hands.
Time Magazine reported that in 2013, the average beekeeper lost 45 percent of colonies the previous winter.
Preator said the Spring Hill hive will have everything necessary to secure its survival in its new home.
“They’re foragers,” Preator said of the bees. “They’ll be fed and taken care of, and if there are any problems, I’ll mix them with another hive.”
But first, he’s got to get all members of the hive to the new home. He estimated that approximately 500 of the 100,000-strong hive are scouters. They leave the hive each day scouting for food sources. With the tree removed and a majority of the hive in nuc boxes, the scouts will be the final bees to make their way to the Independence farm.
Before leaving Spring Hill on May 22, Preator left a nuc box filled with honeycomb where the tree once stood. That should attract the scouts, and Preator said he would return early the next day to collect any bee stragglers.
The bees lived in the front part of the large tree in the Deffenbaugh’s yard for four summers. When the tree completely died, Deffenbaugh said she briefly considered just cutting down the tree and hoping the bees found somewhere else to go on their own. However, then she heard about record numbers of bees dying, and the species possibly facing extinction.
Preator said had they just cut down the tree and ignored the hive, they wouldn’t have been able to leave their house for days. When scouter bees return to the hive and find it gone, they go nuts, Preator said.