Pecan Plantation resident Marita Crowder feels right at home with bees.
She discovered a honeybee hive in a pecan tree in the backyard of her home on Hanging Moss Drive, and placed a phone call to County Extension Agent Marty Vahlenkamp asking for advice. He referred her to a beekeeper equipped to remove hives.
Before she knew it, the bee- keepers who arrived Monday convinced her to put on protective gear so she could witness the removal process up close.
“I still can’t believe I did this, but I suited out too,” Crowder said. “It was quite a learning experience.”
Crowder said beekeepers Dwain Cleveland of Glen Rose and Lee Burough of Pecan took down the hive without incident.
“It was in a tree about 25 feet in the air,” Crowder said. “That, in itself, caused a problem. It was out on a limb.”
She noticed that part of the honeycomb had broken off in the wind, and was on the ground.
“That’s when I looked up,” Crowder said, noting that she had been stung once about 15 years ago and had a normal fear of bees.
But with the protective gear, things were different. She was told to stay calm and not to show panic.
“I never felt threatened at all,” she said, but admitted it was hard not to flinch. “They took probably about 3-1/2 pounds of bees out of it.”
Cleveland, who began working with bees in 1975 and started removing bees professionally in 2003, said he believed that the bees were the Italian variety – not Africanized. He said the worker bees are about 1-2-inch long to 3/8ths of an inch.
“There were probably not over 20,000 – maybe 25,000,” Cleveland said, noting that larger hives can contain up to about 80,000 bees.
He used a suction device to store many of the bees in a wooden crate. Cleveland then transferred them, along with part of the honeycomb, to start a new colony with a new queen on his property near Glen Rose.
Cleveland said that around this time in the fall, hives have more honey so the bees tend to be more protective.
“These were good, gentle bees,” said Burough, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and pilot who started keeping bees in 1976. “It’s a good hobby for me. I enjoy it.”
Cleveland was the beekeeper called by county officials to deal with a dangerous bee situation late last month that resulted in the death of a pet before he arrived.
A German shepherd mix dog died on Sept. 27 after it was attacked by swarming bees from a large hive in the eaves of a home on Hedge Row Street in Oak Trail Shores (OTS). A man who lived there was stung, but was released after being treated at the scene.
Burough said that the conditions in that incident may have been just right for those bees in OTS to become agitated. He said bees tend to become more aggressive if someone nearby talks loud or makes loud noises, moves fast or is wearing dark clothing. He said the scent of a person’s breath – or in that case, that of the dog – also could help stir them into a frenzy.
The day after taking down the hive on Hanging Moss, Cleveland returned to Pecan Plantation for another job. This time it was on North Longwood Drive.
Cleveland said that hive was larger, with an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 bees. It was in a pecan tree, a little over 30 feet off the ground, over a driveway in front of the residence, he said.
Sometime today, Cleveland said he is scheduled to remove a hive that was built inside the walls of an unoccupied home northwest of Granbury. He also noted that he will eventually tend to another hive in Pecan, but wasn’t yet sure where it’s located.
While he said it’s common for there to be three to five hives reported inside Pecan Plantation in any given season, it is unusual to have so many this late in the year.
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