A few weeks ago, Crystal Bridges’ groundskeepers discovered a large hive of honeybees in an old, dead tree on the Museum grounds that was slated for removal. The crew was presented with a conundrum: how to cut down a tree inhabited by hundreds of angry bees without A) getting stung or B) destroying the bees’ hive and honey cache?
They sought help from local beekeeper Cindi Huffman, who advised them on bee relocation techniques; and from David Rains, of Rains Tree Care, who helped with the necessary tree / hive removal. On a chilly morning in March—around 50 degrees, just the right temperature to keep the bees torpid and complacent—they undertook the move.
The hive filled a section of the upper trunk of a hollow tree. David Rains climbed up and drilled a number of exploratory holes to discover how far the hive extended inside the trunk. It was large: filling approximately eight feet of tree trunk, and featured one main entrance and a number of secondary access holes. Rains covered over each opening with Styrofoam and duct tape to keep the bees from exiting during transport, and then went about cutting limbs off of the upper part of the tree to make it easier to remove the hive section and lower it to the ground gently.
With the limbs removed, Rains tied two ropes around the hive section: one attached to a nearby crane, and one held by team members on the ground. He then sawed through the trunk below the hive, allowing the section to swing free–the ground team controlling its movement with their rope to keep from jostling the bees too much. The crane then lowered the trunk segment slowly to the ground.
After a quick inspection by Huffman, a large excavator was brought in to gently pick up the trunk/hive and set it in the back of Huffman’s truck. The driver of said excavator—a professional heavy-equipment operator with the finesse of a fine jeweler—happened to be highly allergic to bee stings. He therefore spent the first part of this operation many yards away, only approaching when the tree trunk was ready to be moved. He performed the lifting maneuver with an epi-pen in his pocket, in case any of the bees took umbrage; but not a single bee exited the hive throughout the entire removal.
Huffman transported trunk and bees to her property. There, she attached a hive box to the hive’s main exit from the log, so that the bees have to pass through the box as they go about their comings and goings. As of today, the bees are already building comb in the new hive box, and Huffman is hopeful that eventually they will move the queen into their new digs. Once the hive has relocated, Huffman can separate the new hive box from the old tree trunk segment and place it among her other hives: no muss, no fuss.
What happens to the honey? Depending on the quality, some maybbe harvested for use by Eleven’s culinary staff (when it comes to food sourcing, you can’t get much more local than that!). The rest will be moved to the hive box to feed the bees while they build up new reserves.