by C. D. Coulon and D. Downy of the Circle of Bees Inc.
City workmen deserve praise for sparing a honey bee colony on the greenbelt path south of 5th Street.
The urban bees were a near casualty of routine city service, when the removal of a massive walnut tree was executed on schedule.
The tree suffered from shaky structural integrity resulting from extreme old age, presenting a possibility of randomly falling on passersby.
In the wild, elderly walnut trees with shaky structural integrity often provide exactly the conditions that bee colonies seek for their fly cribs: large internal caverns resulting from portions of dry rot which have fallen out over time. Such hollows are ideal places in which nests of comb can be built.
The exact situation was the case within the 100-year-old walnut this Wednesday, May 20, when the chain saws belched and fired, the front loader lurched, and the tree deconstruction began.
It is uncertain if the workers realized when starting their day that their task included the possible termination of a honey bee super organism.
What is certain is that things looked grim for approximately 60,000 worker bees and their single, hardworking queen, who had lodged themselves deep in the heart of the walnut tree for safety.
By early evening, eyewitness reports prove that the tree had been felled, and the hive inside it had clearly been discovered by the workforce.
Testimony states that the portion of the tree with the hive in it was cast on its side, with the uppermost chambers of the hive cut through with a chainsaw. A gaping wound exposed the fuzzy bees, who gathering protectively at the top of their brood chamber expecting the worst.
Bystander assessment also suggests that work on the tree removal was only half done by evening. The old walnut was down and sectioned by chainsaw into moveable parts, but those parts still had not moved any distance from where they fell.
To passersby concerned about the well-being of these vital pollinators, the scene looked all too unlikely to resolve in the honey creatures’ favor, with work likely to recommence at daybreak next, and the front loader parked ominously nearby.
But by the next morning at 10:30 am the work was complete: all but one of the large chunks of tree were gone.
Remarkably, the section containing the fallen bee hive remained! The brave workers chose to leave the hive on site: fallen, but still occupying its natural place!
It is unclear if the decision was premeditated, or if it was an on-the-spot act of kindness.
Inside sources describing the rationale or reasoning of these anonymous heroes have yet to emerge. However, all evidence points to strong ethical considerations, and concern for the natural ecology of the cityscape as a logical ground for action.
Moreover, careful observation of the scene suggests the workers realized their target tree contained a beehive, and attempted to segment the trunk well above the embedded hive, but simply underestimated how far its sugary, topmost fingers had reached up into the tree.
Likely, an experienced city beekeeper could have helped them.
Aside: city workers are encouraged to contact the Bee Charmers at 530 400 7032 for advice concerning honey bees or pollinators.
The strong act of eco-justice by city workers left an opening for expert urban keepers to close up the gaping, wounded hive with a wooden plate. The plate will provide slightly better protection from elements and invaders until the disoriented hive is able to rework its internal order, or make plans to move to a new location.
Experienced opinion gives the honey bees a good chance to survive, even though their home is seriously upended! Imagine how long you would likely want to live in your home if it were turned at a 45-degree angle from its base!
Three cheers to the city workers for righting things as best they could!
Evidence is mounting that a transformation in culture is underway in cities like Davis where sub/urbanites, traditionally renowned for their insensitivity to ecology, are changing their ways.
Increasingly citizens realize that we belong to an interconnected web of sensitive biological tissue and systems, not much different from one’s own musculature, vasculature, or other vital organs, and equally important for our survival, and bees are one vital part of it.
However, challenges remain for honey bees. Many parts of our great country remain narrowly protective of their artificial, plastic, bug-free world. That must change.
Should we wish to inhabit earth longer, we must consider ourselves stewards of our local biosphere and its diverse wilderness of organisms.
Those Davis workmen responsible for the removal of the old walnut on the greenbelt south of 5th near Explorit Center last Wednesday, the 20th of May, demonstrated a bold example of stewardship for other city workers to follow.