Friday, November 21, 2008

Dead and gone, but not entirely

With the city forester breathing down my neck, I was forced to say yes to the tree trimmers' choice of today to bring down my doomed silver maple.
I had to forgo a couple of things I'd planned for the morning, including a meetup with Jen and Manisha, dammit. But I needed to be home to supervise.
Martin and Javier were sympathetic and speedy. They joked a lot, with Martin up in the tree and Javier on the ground, belaying the larger roped pieces and feeding branches into the chipper.
I removed a fence panel and set up a chute of tarps. Commercial mulch is expensive, and I liked the idea of recycling what I could.
As you may recall, the tree had a beehive in it, about 12 feet off the ground. What I did not know was that there was another hive up high. It was in the branch you see falling here, I think.
The branch split when it hit the ground. Those poor bees.
I was in danger of falling logs myself, so I didn't get a better shot than this blurry one of the actual bees.
It was a small hive, but they'd laid in a supply of honey. I tasted little bit of it.
The choice of day proved fortuitous. Yesterday it was 70 degrees, and the bees would've been active and angry. Today it was 35, and the poor things succumbed quickly to the cold. They crawled and flew in slow motion, then curled up and died.

A squirrel lost its cozy nest, too. This branch was filled with shredded leaves, and squirrel snacks of pumpkin from my mulch pile, where I'd thrown my jack-o-lanterns.
I feared that the broken hive was the one I knew about, tunneled through the trunk to the high branch, but Martin found that hive farther down. He cut below it and dropped the section.
I threw a sheet over it to keep the bees contained as much as possible. The section was too big to roll, but Martin trimmed off a solid chunk on one side.
The guys who showed up to take the bigger wood helped roll the whole thing into my yard. It took all their strength, and they were probably cursing me a little. But they were good-natured about it.
They didn't get the section into the raised bed as I'd hoped, but close enough. I should mention here that the City Council on Monday night voted to allow backyard beekeeping! While this probably isn't what they had in mind, I made sure the hive met the position requirements: as far from the neighbors as possible, at least five feet off the lot line, and behind a six-foot barrier (my fence).
I covered the trunk with an old wool rug and plastic, leaving a small escape hole above the hive entrance. The entrance was packed with bees. I could hear them buzzing loudly in the confined space, and there was warmth rising from the hole.

I hope they can seal up the hole at the top of the hive where the trunk was cut. I hope they can survive the trauma of their jarring fall, relocation and loss of who knows how many workers. More warmish days are coming, so I'll investigate whether I can feed them as ordinary beekeepers sometimes do.

Meanwhile, the log crew fired up their winch and loaded their truck.
They filled it to capacity.
This is Martin, taking a well-deserved rest. Javier is behind him.
And this is all that remains of my once-mighty maple.


  1. Wow, that's a lot of work and manpower. I'm sure you are glad that this is over. I'm glad you get to keep some of the bees.

  2. I am actually sad to see your beautiful tree go. We have seen so many great pictures of it. How exciting that you get to be an apiculturalist now! Yay for bees.

  3. That's sad about the first (unknown) hive, but I'm impressed by the efforts you made to save the second.

  4. This makes me recall the loss of my favorite tree last fall. After a hard year of mental/visual adjustment, I finally figured out what was next for the spot it has occupied. Take your time, and my condolences.

  5. Awwwwwww, I know it hurts to loose a tree. I think Denver now prohibits planting that tree anymore...because of the heart-rot, the limbs were always crashing down. Just don't replace it with a Norway Maple...I understand they're of little to no value here and choking out native trees. I have to replace some ugly, nasty apple trees (they were awful!!!) that I had removed and I'm looking for a Viburnum or perhaps a couple small cherries or even one of the crab-apple trees that produce tiny, little apples that the birds can swallow in one gulp (and leave little mess under the tree).

    Have you read BirdChick's stories about her bees? I think it's way cool you tried to save 'em...and have all that mulch, to boot. Good on ya!

  6. What a humane naturalist you are! I'd admire what you did for the bees. The photos are fascinating. I'll be sharing this post with my daughter later.

  7. Speaking as a beekeeper, I'm tickled that you're keeping the hive section. Harvesting honey (if you're planning to) will be difficult and disruptive, but the neighbourhood can only benefit from the continued presence of the bees.

  8. I admire your efforts to save that hive. Maybe the additional sun that you have in your yard now will allow you to plant some bee-loving flowers. How great to have all that mulch!

  9. I hope your bees survive and I'm touched that you are trying to help them! Nice lady.

  10. We have a tree that needs to come down right now too. I keep thinking the city will come by and pester us but they don't. I want it down but from all I've heard if the city takes it down it's way cheaper. I did get a referral though for a man who may have a good price.

    That is so cool you are trying to save the bees! I will remember that when our tree comes down and look for bees.

  11. You are the true Lorax, you speak for the bees. :o)
    So what happened after you covered them up? What's the next step? Did I miss something?

    Sorry about your tree! Somethings are just meant to be.
    Love your house!

  12. Absolutely fascinating that the bees were living that way! So sad to lose a nice big tree in your yard, though.

  13. Two summers ago a huge oak tree came within inches, literally, of crushing my dining room while my family of four sat quietly eating dinner. It was during a raging thunderstorm and I was the one facing the window that offered a clear view of the tree as it fell our way. A moment I'll never forget. But I still miss that tree and the shade it provided. Great photo-journalism!

  14. Now you need bumperstickers that say, "Save The Bees"... lucky you (and them) to have saved that hive. I'd love to have bees, but alas, the malathion spraying they do out my way kills them.

    Another fun bit of photo-journalism. Thanks!


  15. Excellent story; nothing like bees to add drama to an otherwise largely vegetable narrative. What do the log guys do with the logs they take away?

  16. Would some of that work as firewood for you and your neighbors? Just curious if its dry enough.

    Seems like it would last a couple seasons!

  17. Blue, at least it went quickly and I was able to be home to supervise (though I was late to work because of it).

    Mimi, we'll see if they survive the winter! This wasn't quite the kind of beekeeping I had in mind ...

    Beatrice, at least I can say I tried!

    Thanks, Margaret. I'm partial to lindens, so that's probably what I'll replace it with.

    Beverly, no more maples! At least not the kind that get so huge. They're coming down all over the 'hood. I think they were all planted about the same time. I've seen Birdchick's blog, but haven't checked it lately.

    Betts, I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't try. Hope your daughter enjoys it!

    Thanks, Gordo. I don't plan to harvest any honey from this. If the bees make it through the winter, they'll probably abscond in the spring (and I'll seal the holes then so I don't get wasps or hornets in it). If they do swarm and I can catch them at it, I'll put them in a top-bar hive.

    Thanks, JGH. More flowers are definitely in the plans! But bees forage up to 2 miles away, so no worries on nectar sources.

    Thanks, Zoomie and Jesse!

    Fruitlady, I assumed it would be more expensive if the city did it. This cost about $800 (which was less than half the original estimate I got!). Rushton, if you need to get a quote.

    Denise, I took the plastic off the next morning and just left the rug on. I'll nail a piece of wood over the top hole (made by the trimmers) and just leave the whole thing there. If there wasn't too much mayhem inside and too many workers lost, they may be OK there.

    Dana, we have lots of feral beehives around the neighborhood in old trees. That's pretty much how bees have lived since time immemorial!

    Pam, wow! You were lucky. On windy nights, I feared the same thing would happen with this tree. Better to remove that worry.

    Dani, the pesticides are a shame. Javier suggested I spray, and seemed baffled by my emphatic no.

    nbm, I have no idea. Maybe sell it for firewood.

    James, in hindsight I maybe should have kept it (at least the smaller chunks), but I don't have a fireplace except for the chimenea. At least I have the mulch.