Above: A close-up view of the hive by beekeeper Jon Nelson.
A vacuum, a box, and a beekeeper in shorts and a t-shirt
The Rossettis were concerned about a branch from an ash tree near the stone wall that lines the back of their yard. It was hanging over a fence and was sure to come down in a storm. It was a large branch but removing it looked fairly routine. Until they noticed a beehive that poked out from the tree like a barnacle.
The tree company didn’t like it and wouldn’t touch the tree until it was removed. But it was honey bees … how could they have the hive removed but not destroyed in the process? Enter Jon Nelson of B.B. Nelson Apiaries in Woonsocket. Nelson is a veritable gusher of information when it comes to bees and hives and honey. He clearly loves what he does and somehow manages to remove honey bee hives in shorts and a t-shirt with nary a sting.
“I’ve learned that if you don’t exhale out of your mouth when you are around them, don’t move fast and don’t hurt them, you’re pretty good. If you need to, you use a little pine needle smoke and that chills them right out,” Nelson explained.
Exterior hives are unusual, he said. Far more typical is a hive built in a hole in a tree or in a building. From a distance, this hive looked like it could almost be part of the tree, but sure enough up close you could see the outline of the bee-covered combs. Nelson has created his own vacuum attached to a large wooden box and he brought the contraption up the ladder with him. After securing the box, he took the vacuum hose and just started hoovering the bees right up. The bees didn’t seem to object. When he was done with the front of one comb, he would cut it off, turn it over and vacuum up any remaining bees. Then, down the ladder he came to deposit the comb into a bucket. He typically is able to reuse the comb too, so the bees can get right back to business at their new home.
The homeowner’s worry – that the hive extended into the tree trunk – was not realized, making the removal a whole lot easier and less expensive (at $300).
It was a nice way to spent a sunny September afternoon and we even got to try biting the edge of the honeycomb to taste the red bamboo (aka Japanese knotweed) honey. Delicious!