Philip has owned and operated his own tree service company for over 22 years here in Central Florida. He deals with his share of critters on the job: squirrels, raccoons, carpenter ants, wasps, honeybees, snakes and he even rescues the occasional cat when needed. If you remember, he first started beekeeping from a bee encounter that happened on the job. Here we are 6 hives later. This tree job was like any other, the homeowner had opted to remove the tree. It wasn’t until Philip got into the canopy of the tree did he discover the beehive 35′ in the air. Thankfully for the homeowner, Philip has gained some useful skills for honeybee extraction. Bee extraction can be challenging on its own, but extracting the bees 35′ in the air comes with a whole new set of challenges! See our first bee extraction.
Discovering the Hive
The beehive was in the trunk of a laurel oak where there had once been a crotch in the tree. At some point, one of the limbs had broken off. Over time, the exposed opening rotted back down into the core of the tree, With time, the edges of the break healed, but the damage was already done creating a hollow in the trunk of the tree, The opening was about 8 inches in diameter. Being high in the tree, it was easily protected from predators and had gone unnoticed in the canopy. It wasn’t until Philip was trimming the branches in preparation of removing the tree did he discover the beehive,
The discovery of the beehive was a game-changer and drastically changed the job. He notified the homeowner of the problem as soon as he found it and provided them with their options. Not all tree service companies will deal with honeybees. Most of the time, a homeowner would need to have the bees removed before the tree removal could continue. Lucky for them, Philip is a beekeeper! While rainy weather slowed the progress, the tree removal and now bee extraction could continue without costly delays to the job.
Bee Extraction 35 Feet in the Air
The trunk of the tree was about 18″ in diameter. Philip had to trim around the hive to expose the trunk of the tree and be able to safely move the hive to the ground. The bees remained somewhat calm through the initial cut through the hive. Philip quickly stirred them up when removing the honeycomb in sections out of the tree. Some of the sections of honeycomb were up to 3 feet in length! He used the bee vacuum to suction up as many bees as he could.
The initial bee activity Philip saw when he started this job, gave no indication of how massive the hive hidden in the hollow really was. The hollow section of the trunk was about 10 feet in length. Solidifying the removal of the tree was the best course of action. This tree was slowly rotting from the top down, making it quite dangerous. Philip used the boom of the lift to lower sections of the trunk to the ground. He left the main section of the hive intact and allowed the bees to gather overnight.
The Colony Absconds
The next morning was quite overcast and the bees hunkered together in their log. Philip continued with the removal of his tree job. Once finished, he realized that the colony had absconded. This means that the entire colony of bees left the hive. Honestly, it’s not at all surprising they would, their hive was gone, they needed to quickly find a new home to ensure their survival. In hindsight, Philip realized he should have sealed the top of the log with a net while the bees were consolidated, but he was focused on his job.
Thankfully the bees had not gone far. They had swarmed to a nearby tree in the yard, Philip did some minor pruning and was able to put the bees into the nuc boxes he had brought. He covered the boxes with netting and brought the bees to their new home.
Get a Bird’s Eye View of the Bee Extraction
Filming 35 feet in the air in the basket of a lift is challenging too, Philip was able to get some footage of the entire process. From the initial discovery of the hive to capturing the absconded colony. Watch to find out if we were able to secure the queen of the 7th hive in the Kowalski Apiary!
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.