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Beehive Removal Near Brooklyn Bridge Marks End to Busy Swarm Season

By Ben Fractenberg on July 26, 2012 7:42am 

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — It was a fitting end to a record-breaking swarm season.

A 6-pound hive of bees nestled on a steel beam near the Brooklyn Bridge brought a team of bee experts to South Street Wednesday night to remove thousands of the insects.

Resident NYPD beekeeper Anthony "Tony Bees" Planakis had been aware of the approximately 18,000-strong hive for a couple weeks and decided the weather was right Wednesday to finally dismantle it.

A police cherry picker lifted him about 20 feet in the air about 7:30 p.m. to get to work on the hive, at the corner of Robert F. Wagner Sr. Place. He zipped up his protective suit — taking extra precaution because a hive can be more defensive and willing to attack than a swarm — and calmly vacuumed the bees into a special container.  

"Not a bee was left behind," said Planakis after removing them and carefully cutting down the hive. "It's the best recovery I've ever done. We saved everything."

Planakis has responded to 33 swarms this season, including the South Street hive, which is almost double what he usually sees in a season.

The hive will head to New Jersey, where beekeeper Robert Fennell will care for it at his home.

Fennell, 47, said he recently got into caring for bees after hearing about them being endangered.

"I'm more about protecting the bees than getting the honey," he said.

For Planakis the job, which he thinks will be his last this year as he does not know of any other feral swarms or hives in the city and the season is ending, was bittersweet.

"It's kind of sad," he said. "But this season has to be the biggest I've seen in my 35 years of beekeeping."

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