What do you do if you’re an electric utility in charge of a city’s streetlights and one of your light poles is taken over by a swarm of 40,000 bees?
That’s what one of our utility crews was asking while considering the fate of the hive of European honey bees in a light post near Mission College on December 23rd. A decision had to be made quickly, as the light post was scheduled for replacement within a few days.
SVP Division Manager Dave Padilla had no time to waste. His crew buzzed local beekeeper and extraction expert Art Hall. At the site, Art determined that it was best to remove the streetlight, bees and all, and relocate it to a private work area in order to more safely extract the bees from their home.
European Honey bees are currently threatened with extinction due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In 2015, 42% of all the honey bee colonies in the United States died off. This is up dramatically from the alarming 30% die-off that has been happening each winter for the last decade. CCD is a new crisis and scientists are unsure as to what the definitive cause is. Needless to say, we must all do everything that we can to save as many honey bees as possible, since one-third of all the food we eat is a direct result of honey bee pollination.
Crew Foreman Mark Guerrero arrived with his team and began work to lift the pole off of its base. Once it was lifted off the concrete foundation, Art added some smoke to the inside of the pole, taking the sting out of the process by calming the bees. The opening was covered with a bag, and the crew placed the pole on a truck that transported it to the SVP construction yard.
Fellow beekeeper and SVP Principal Estimator Lenny Buttitta assisted Art in the extraction process. All 40,000 bees and their honeycomb are being relocated to a standard beehive box, and they will live out their lives at the Santa Clara 4-H Ranch on Brookdale Drive, where Lenny is in charge of the beekeeping program in his spare time.