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Tree Limb Cut Off to Free Astoria Street of Bees

John Sharp, Parks Dept. bee expert had to smoke the bees to calm them down
John Sharp, Parks Dept. bee expert had to smoke the bees to calm them down
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

ASTORIA — Workers on Friday morning cut off a large maple tree branch containing a giant bee hive with thousands of insects, ending years-long battle with swarming bees that residents say have terrorized the neighborhood.

After two giant swarms broke out of their hive last week, menacing residents of 35th Street in Astoria, the city Parks Department decided to remove the entire branch trying to prevent the bees from returning.

Parks Department crews started cutting branches from the tree around 9 a.m.

First, they sawed off the tree’s smaller branches to clear the area around the hive, which was located approximately 30 feet above the ground.

The activity made the bees angry, and the insects began flying anxiously around.

At first, the crews wanted to put a net around the hive and then come back at night once the forager bees returned.

“The forager bees, which are getting pollen, nectar and water during the day, will come back home in the evening and their home won’t be there,” fretted Andrew Cote of The New York City Beekeepers Association.

The experts also worried that someone would have had to return to the tree to remove the regrouped forager bees.

“Otherwise, we would lose them,” said John Sharp, a bee expert who works for NYC Parks Forestry division.

But eventually the officials decided to cut off the branch right away.

John Sharp was hoisted to the nest by a cherry picker. He netted the hive, using smoke to calm the bees.

After sewing off the tree limb, the hive was taken to a bee sanctuary in Putnam Valley.

In order to avoid forager bees from getting lost, the Parks workers installed a small beehive where the nest was located earlier.

“Hopefully, they will smell honey and they will occupy it,” said Cote.

Cote estimated there may still be around 15,000 bees outside of the nest. The bee hive will be picked up later.

Afterwards, residents cheered. “This has been an ongoing problem for three years,” said JoAnn Granelli, a resident of 35 Street. She said she had repeatedly called 311 about the bees. “Now, finally we’ll be able to walk around and our children won’t be stung anymore.”

Residents complained that the bees would swarm around their houses, preventing people from getting inside their homes.  Many said they got stung.

Last Friday, two massive swarms, each containing roughly 10,000 bees, flew out of the hive. The first group settled on a gate sculpture at one home, while another landed on a nearby tree branch.

Those bees were removed by NYPD’s bee expert Anthony Planakis.

A resident who identified himself as Peter, said Friday he was happy that the bees were being taken away to a safe place,” he said.  “I love the bees, they are so valuable for the nature. We have to save as many as possible.”