The bees were removed from a hollow portion of the tree by a company that specializes in relocating hives and swarms of the honey-producing insects, as well as wasps and hornets, according to Bruce Hurlburt, parks and open space manager for the city.
"The bees are not killed," Hurlburt said. The company, Bee Friendly, uses a special vacuum and trained handlers to gather up the bees, pieces of constructed hive and the queen bee. The colony is relocated, either to a beekeeper or to an open space outside the city, where the bees pretty much get right back to what they were doing before.
"We're not out trying to hurt bees," he continued. "The only time we call a service is when it's an issue in a park or a street."
One woman who lives very near the former hive said she was glad that the hive was gone.
Monta Loma neighborhood resident Janet Kenney, who lives further away, sees things differently. "The city may think that they were doing something good, but I think that with colony collapse and everything that's going on right now, it's a travesty," Kenney said.
Kenney first emailed the Voice when she discovered that the hive had been covered by "tar, wire mesh and silicon sealer." She presumed that a neighbor had simply covered the hive with the bees still inside — an incredibly inhumane thing to do, by her estimation. Even after hearing that the city had contracted with Bee Friendly and that the queen was reportedly removed unharmed she was still upset. "I'm really disappointed that the city of Mountain View would do that."
Al Edrisi, regional manager of the Northern California division of Bee Friendly Bee Removal, said he would be equally upset if he learned that someone had killed a hive of bees. However, he continued, that's not the case here.
Bee Friendly, Edrisi noted, does not even offer a bee extermination service. It will only do bee relocation. He said it was "unfortunate" that many companies will kill bees — and even wasps and hornets — instead of working with a company like Bee Friendly, to get hives and swarms removed humanely.
"You would think that most companies would do live removals. But it seems that most companies, unfortunately, end up killing them. It's quite mind-blowing," he said.
Both Edrisi and and Kenney said a big part of their concern for bees is that the fuzzy insects are responsible for the majority of pollination on the planet. "Without the existence of bees, scientists say, the earth could only survive another two or three years," Edrisi said. "Over a third of our food source comes from bees."
Kenney said she would have preferred it if the city had approached the situation differently. When she called to ask about the hive, she said she was told the bees were removed so that the tree where they had built their hive could be trimmed without the workers being stung. If that's the case, Kenney said, the city simply could have temporarily covered up the hive while trimming.
Hurlburt said the hive was removed because the bees were crossing a sidewalk frequently and posed a threat to passersby who could be allergic. If that were not the case, he said, the city would have not called Bee Friendly.
Kenney isn't buying it. She said that she has a beehive in her backyard and that it has never been a problem for her children or pets. "I just think that it was an overreaction on someone's part."