Some people think of cutting down dead snags as potentially hazardous, but the hazards which come to mind are not necessarily wild honey bees.
But this was the surprise a couple in 140 Mile recently encountered, when they were having some danger trees fallen.
Tara Larocque said one of the fallers she and her husband Mike Fochuk had taking down the trees mentioned he thought he saw honey bees when he was scaling one of the trees and he was stung.
She did not think much more of it, and put it down to probably a wasp, as she doesn’t keep bees.
Nearly a week later when her son Hunter Fochuk started to buck up one of the snags, he, however, confirmed what the snag faller had suspected -honey bees were in the dead fir tree.
Larocque was surprised.
“I’d have never guessed there was this colony on the property,” she commented, after also saying she had been fascinated by bees for a long time and had even toyed with the idea of keeping some of her own.
“I have a really keen interest in it.”
With this interest, and her belief in the importance of bees to the ecosystem and growing food, she knew she didn’t want any harm to come to the fallen colony, which had been living about 65 feet up a very rotten snag.
“It’s vital to the health of our world,” she said of bees in general.
“I felt like I should do something for them rather than leave them there and they die,” she explained.
So Larocque called in the local expert she knew, John Hoyrup.
She had been buying her honey from Hoyrup for years and had talked about bees with him. Hoyrup also happens to be the president of the Central Cariboo Bee Keepers club, which is affiliated with the provincial B.C. Honey Producer’s Association.
He was the right man for the job.
Hoyrup came the next day, and he said while he’s dealt with many bee swarms before, which is a natural process of hive expansion, each one is a unique situation.
This one was challenging due to the location of this “wild” hive.
“It wasn’t a really easy situation because it was in the bush a bit,” recalled Hoyrup of what he found when he arrived.
The colony was not a swarm “per se” but appeared to have been living in the tree for some time, though it was not a large colony.
He described the bees as “friendly” and he carefully took apart sections of the downed tree to get the pieces with the hive in it and he put these in his truck to take with him back to his house where he could put them into “bee boxes.”
These boxes are specially made to house bees and allow beekeepers access to clean and care for the hives and to harvest the honey.
Hoyrup said he didn’t need to wear a bee suit and only put a bee shirt on at the end when transporting the log he suspected may have the queen in it, as bees can become upset if moving the queen.
He did use a small electric chainsaw to get into the log, in order to be less disturbing to the insects.
Hoyrup said he was able to successfully transfer the bees to a box but was unable to locate a mature queen.
He’ll be feeding and treating the colony until the spring and will see if a mature queen develops and the colony produces something.
“It’s a little bit of a guessing game,” he explained.
Larocque said she was amazed at how calm the bees were and she is curious to hear what Hoyrup finds.
She said she is considering acquiring the box to return the colony to her property for her to take up beekeeping if the colony turns out to be viable. She has always taken care to encourage bees by allowing her garden to flower late and not ripping things out until bees have a chance to feed.
“It was an unexpected pleasure,” she said of finding wild bees on their property they have lived on for 25 years.
Neither she, her son Hunter nor Hoyrup were stung during the removal of the hive.“This might be the catapult or the push to make me (keep bees).”