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Honeybees, and lots of them, stung several people and sent even more scrambling for cover after the tree in which they were living was cut down Monday afternoon on Main Street.
The city contracted with John Sutherland of Boone Tree Service to have the rotting tree removed from the right of way in front of Dr. Dana Dahlen’s dental practice. Sutherland said he had no idea that the top portion of the tree he fell was full of bees, but it didn’t take him long to find out.
“As soon as it hit the ground, I knew,” he said, still smarting from the dozen or so stings he sustained while trying to get away from the swarm. “They were highly aggressive. I’ve never seen them get that aggressive.”
Andi Stevens works with Sutherland and said the swarm of bees that came from the tree was incredible.
“It was like a black cloud,” she said, adding that she is allergic to bee stings.
Sutherland said city police officers were already on hand to direct traffic around the tree, once it fell.
The bee outburst changed their duty quickly as Lt. Chris Atkins and Officer Kenny Goodlett, with help from Stevens, added a warning to drivers to roll up their windows as they passed by.
Meanwhile, Sutherland attached a long rope to the treetop and dragged it off the street, all the while swatting and dodging seemingly thousands of swarming bees.
Atkins reported being stung only once.
Both lanes of traffic reopened once the treetop was removed, but drivers were still warned to roll up their windows. A man driving a Corvette with an exposed T-top approached the spot were the bees were still angrily buzzing, grimaced and drove past, seemingly unscathed.
Another unsuspecting man walked down the other side of Main Street and quickly began swatting away the angry bees with his hat.
He said he was stung only once near the nose, but wasn’t happy about it.
“They should put up a sign, warning folks,” he said.
A young man sporting an MP3 player and earphones walked onto the scene but stopped short near the old Ripy home to assess the problem.
Informed of the angry bees, he pondered his next move for a couple of minutes before picking up his pace and quickly moving by.
During this time, local beekeeper William Purvis arrived after being called to the rescue by Sutherland.
Purvis, who said he responded to a similar incident recently in a homeowner’s back yard, allowed the bees to calm down before donning protective headgear, rubber gloves and a long-sleeved jacket.
With dozens of bees buzzing around his head, he calmly poked around the angry hive for a few minutes, took one of Sutherland’s chainsaws and proceeded to cut the bee-filled treetop into sections.
He then loaded the sections into his pickup, saying he planned to take them home where they could live with his other bees.
Sutherland said it wasn’t surprising that the bees were so angry.
“When the top of that tree hit the road, it probably broke their comb loose and could have hurt the queen,” he said.
Sutherland was later able to remove the rest of the tree, apparently with no further bee trouble.
E-mail Ben Carlson at email@example.com.