Leona Brensha and her neighbors can stop worrying about the colony of honeybees living in a tree in the Duryea woman’s yard.
With the help of bee enthusiasts, PPL and Asplundh Tree Expert Co., the bees are safe and eventually will find a new home near the community garden at the Butler Township Community Center in Drums.
Those entities came together Friday morning to remove about a 10-foot section of a catalpa or catawba, tree for transport to the Harrisburg area, where beekeepers plan to secure the colony for the winter before they bring the bees back to Luzerne County.
“Basically for now, we will stand it up against another tree,” said Tristan Saunders, a Middletown landscaper and a hobbyist beekeeper who is a member of the Pennsylvania Backyard Beekeepers’ Association, Lewisberry.
When the weather warms, Saunders and his fellow beekeepers will transport the bees in a beehive box to Butler Township’s community garden at the Center for Landscape Design and Stewardship. It’s a way to save the bees at a time when honeybees are struggling to survive because of disease and pesticides.
Saunders wasn’t sure how many bees were in the colony, but he said a colony could include as many as 15,000 to 20,000 bees in the winter and grow to 60,000 to 80,000 in the summer.
“Another week or two and the female will start laying eggs,” said Saunders who, with other beekeepers Bill Fisher and Luke Cline, cares for the beehives at the governor’s mansion.
PPL got involved because the tree is adjacent to a utility pole by an alley near the rear of the home. Neighbors, including one with a young child, were concerned about bees being so close. They contacted the borough and, in turn, the borough contacted the utility company, according to PPL spokesman Rich Beasley.
Brensha, who said she wasn’t even aware the bees were there until neighbors said the bees were bothering them in their yard, wanted the bees to be safe. She plans to move from her York Avenue home, where she grew up, and was worried someone would harm the colony.
“I’m more fearful of human vandalism,” said Brensha, 78.
The tree, which stood about 50 feet high, had broad leaves and grew long green pods that would turn brown and fall to the ground. The backyard tree had been there since she was a child, she said.
Don Ritter of of the beekeepers association, also known as Pennsylvania Apiculture Inc., was called in as a scout for the group and contacted Brensha.
“We (the group) decided to present it as a media event,” he said.
After the 10-foot section of the tree, from about 5 feet off the ground, was marked and wire screens placed over holes in the tree for transport, the Asplundh tree cutters trimmed the tree of its branches.
Then a top section was cut off, straps were attached to the top and PPL’s auger truck, used for drilling holes for utility poles, used a hook to pull up the section of tree by the straps, after it was cut from the bottom section.
With smoke from a small pot of burning wood shavings wafting through the air to calm any bees that might awaken, the arm of the auger truck slowly swung the tree to the beekeepers’ landscaping company trailer. Workers trimmed off ends of the tree to make it fit. Some old honeycombs could be seen near the top of the tree, where the bees had been before moving farther down the tree.
“This is a pretty unique experience for PPL,” said Beasley, who’s worked for the utility company for 30 years. “In the past, we’ve helped with the habitats of eagles, falcons, but never bees.”
“It’s a great example of everyone coming together,” said Joe Nixon, another PPL spokesman.