Bee problem leaves Carson City park abuzz |

Bee problem leaves Carson City park abuzz

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
photos by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Beekeeper Gordon Vizenor, left, helps Carson City arborist Vern Markussen prepare for the removal of a beehive from a large cottonwood tree in Monte Vista Park on Thursday morning. The crew removed a four-foot section of the tree, containing the hive, from about 60 feet up the tree. Despite waking the bees up with his chain saw, Markussen only received one sting on the jaw during the whole process.

A four-foot-long beehive found in a cottonwood tree in Monte Vista Park in Carson City presented a problem for city officials.

With the hive so close to a playground, park officials were concerned about the risks to children, especially those who may have allergies.

But with a nationwide shortage of honeybees thanks to a mysterious bee-killer called Colony Collapse Disorder, no one wanted to see the hive destroyed.

So the city called on two certified arborists with the Public Works Department and a beekeeper from Gardnerville. Between the three of them the hive was safe, and so were area kids.

Vernon Markussen and Joe Booth, with the help of beekeeper Gordon Vizenor, removed the hive Thursday.

The bees had taken up residence in an eight-foot-long crack in the tree’s trunk.

“It’s in a park setting, with children around, and bees are a risk,” Markussen said. “But we don’t want to put the hurt on (the bees). We’ll take it down as whole as we can.”

Markussen, who along with Booth have about 50 years combined experience in working on trees, said he removed a hive from a similar location in Fuji Park.

The men started their work about 6 a.m., using an aerial lift truck to get high up in the tree and trimming branches around the crack where the bees were located.

Markussen attached ropes to the tree trunk at the top, and just under the beehive, and with Booth holding one rope and Vizenor on the other, got ready to create sort of a cradle for the trunk and bring it down slowly.

With the ropes and men in place, Markussen, dressed in protective clothing, took a chain saw and cut parts of the area just below the beehive. He then rocked the trunk back and forth until it broke, falling to one side but still held among the branches by the ropes.

The men gradually lowered the trunk section with the bees inside to the ground. Some bees were flying around, but most remained in the tree.

“They’re wondering what happened to their house,” Vizenor said, adding the men had little to fear from the bees, since the weather was cold and honeybees aren’t that aggressive.

“When it’s cold, they’re pretty docile,” he said.

Had the bees become angry, they could have caused quite a stir. Vizenor said during the height of the season a colony could have as many as 80,000 to 100,000 bees, but this early, he estimated, the hive would have about 60,000.

Vizenor started beekeeping as a hobby and his collection has grown to 13 colonies. He doesn’t charge for his services, but he keeps the beehives and sells the honey locally.

“It’s a fun hobby with a little bit of profit,” he said. “The bees make the honey, I just steal it.”

Vizenor, who is a field foreman for Dan Mills Construction, said he has been stung quite a bit, mostly on his arms and hands. Recently he was stung on the side of his nose and his eye swelled shut.

“They say bees smell fear like a dog would,” he said.

He said he gets about a call a week to remove a hive, many from people who mistake wasps or hornets for honeybees.

“A lot of people think they’re wasps or hornets and try to spray them,” he said. “The honeybee is small and fuzzy, with stripes. The wasp is smooth, sleek and larger.”

He’ll spray wasps for people, but he’ll try to save bees.

“We’re losing a lot of colonies throughout the U.S.,” he said. “Without bees, no food.”

Honeybees pollinate plants, including fruit trees and crops, he said.

Vizenor had the downed tree trunk section at the park roped off so no one would try and disturb the bees, and said he would come back later after the bees still in the tree come down to the log.

“Once they realize where their queen went, they’ll go to her,” he said. “They won’t leave their queen. They can’t survive; they’d just die off.”

Once the bees were reunited with their queen, Vizenor wrapped the log in plastic wrap to take home to become his 14th colony.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.