Chiles, Nallys unite to save bee colony
|Sandbar Restaurant owner Ed Chiles, at right, and Bob "The Bee Man" Van Der Herchen, at left, along with Sandbar manager Joe Rogers, discuss the best way to save a bee colony high up in this Australian pine on Spring Avenue in Anna Maria near the restaurant. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin|
Although they’re on opposite sides of the fence on several legal
issues, Sandbar Restaurant owner Ed Chiles and William
and Barbara Nally of Spring Avenue in Anna Maria have united to save
a bee colony that has taken nest high up in an Australian pine along
Spring Avenue in front of the Nally residence.
the process won’t be easy, according
to Bob “The Bee Man” Van Der Herchen, who has made a career of beekeeping
and saving bees.
Concerned that the bees
might eventually encroach on the restaurant or bother the thousands of visitors
who walk along Spring Avenue every year, Chiles approached the Nallys and asked
if they could get together and have the bees moved to a less-prominent location.
the Nallys agreed, Chiles called Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford for the city’s
help. Barford then contacted the University of Florida’s Agriculture Extension
Office in Palmetto to see if they could remove the bees.
agreed to “take care of
the bees,” said Chiles, but their solution was simply to come out and exterminate
the bees, regardless of whether or not they were the honeybee variety or the
more aggressive African bees that have been found in the United States.
said he’s read numerous articles
that the North American bee population is in decline for unknown reasons and
he decided to try to save the bees.
was really surprised by what the agriculture people said. I don’t want
the bees killed, I want them saved,” said
With the blessings of city hall,
Chiles began looking for something less drastic and eventually found Bob “The
Bee Man” Van Der Herchen of Englewood, who has been in the bee business
all his life and has devoted the last seven years to saving bees throughout Florida.
Der Herchen visited the bees on Wednesday, Sept. 5, but was dismayed to find
the bee hive was about 30 feet up in the Australian pine.
The bad news is that because they are
so high up and the majority of the hive is actually living inside the tree trunk,
Van Der Herchen can’t vacuum them into a safe tank and transport them to
an orange grove in eastern Manatee County. That’s a simple process that
would take just a few hours.
The good news,
Van Der Herchen said, is that they are probably not the African bee variety,
although they may likely be a mixed breed. They are not going to bother people
as long as people don’t
Van Der Herchen said he could
cut down the tree trunk and remove the bees that way, but that method might rile
the bees. The second solution, he said, was a bee trap, which is a one-way screen
that prevents bees from re-entering the hive once they leave.
trap takes about 4-6 weeks to collect all the bees, which happens when the queen
bee leaves because there are no bees left inside.
Van Der Herchen said he would
then take the trap down and move it to an orange grove, where the surviving bees - nearly
90 percent of the present colony - will quickly find a home.
readily agreed to the trap option.
want to save the bees. I don’t
want to see them destroyed,” he said.
Der Herchen said he’s done nearly
100 bee traps in the past seven years and in only one instance did the bees become
upset. That was because the entrance to the hive was at the bottom of a tree
and just beside a driveway that was used by customers of a nearby real estate
“I don’t see a problem
with this trap,” he said.
Van Der Herchen
is a Florida-licensed beekeeper and African bee removal specialist. He said most
bee colonies in Florida are now a variety of mix between African bees and honeybees.
Because the Anna Maria hive is so far above ground, it’s not likely that
the bees will get angry from the traffic on Spring Avenue. They haven’t
yet, he noted.
know in about six weeks,” if
the bees are going to throw a fit when moved, he said.
Der Herchen will come back to Anna Maria this week with his protective clothing
and set the bee trap high up on the tree. After that, it’s just a matter
of time before the colony is ready to be moved.
Chiles indicated he will take responsibility
for Van Der Herchen’s bill for services.