Environment
4:42 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

How Do You Relocate 30,000 Austin Honeybees? Very Carefully.

Some 30,000 honeybees are about to find a more suitable home.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is relocating a massive beehive found in a large oak tree on Highway 183 near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The hive was found several weeks ago when the agency examined the tree’s health, as a part of a project to improve roads leading to the airport (Highways 71, 183 and 290.)

“We decided that this was a project that was worth taking because of the importance of tree, first of all, and the bees themselves,” says authority communication director Rick L'Amie.

Relocating a beehive is a lengthy process that takes a month or longer.

“There are baby bees in there,” says beekeeper Randy Oakley. “They won’t willingly leave their baby bees and there is no way to get them out without opening up the tree which would harm the tree. So we have to trap them out of the tree.”

Bees are only able to exit out of their hive through this trap.
Bees are only able to exit out of their hive through this trap.
Credit Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

To remove the beehive, a one-way, cone-shaped trap is set at the entrance of the hive. Once a bee leaves the hive, it can’t go back – forcing the bee to move to a decoy beehive facing the existing hive.

“It takes about four weeks for all the bees in the bee tree to mature and become field bees,” Oakley says. “Once they are all mature and immersed to the decoy beehive, we relocate the hive to one of our apiaries, we take down the cone, and seal up the hole.”

Honeybees pollinate 80 percent of flowering crops – including many food supplies.  The bee population statewide has been declining because of ongoing drought and use of pesticides.

“They are an indicator of what’s going on the environment. If the bee is not dong well, the environment is not doing well,” Oakley says.

This particular beehive will be relocated to an apiary in Robin, Texas. Oakley says he has eight ongoing bee relocation projects in the Austin area. 

“We appreciate all the people who are willing to go through the process, it is a long process, I mean, it is not an imminent fix,” he added. “But relocating bees from bee tree is much better than the alternative.”

The beehive was due to be relocated today – but that was before the CTRMA found even more bees hidden in the same tree, via a separate entrance. The hive is expected to be moved in the coming weeks. 

Editor's Note: This post originally misspelled the name of CTRMA communication director Rick L'Amie. It has since been corrected.

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