NEWTON TOWNSHIP — An effort to move bee hives in Lackawanna County went awry Monday afternoon when the bees swarmed the crew trying to save them.
One worker had to be sent to the hospital.
Charles Jewell of Newton Township called PennDOT last week because a tree in his yard near Clarks Summit was at risk of falling into the state road.
It became more complicated than that because that tree is also home to about 50,000 bees.
The attempt to remove the bee hives didn’t go as planned.
A contractor’s plan to remove some tree branches for PennDOT became more complicated when they discovered five active honey bee hives at Jewell’s house near Clarks Summit.
“I knew that there were some there and I had told them that there were bees but I didn’t know there were nearly that many,” Jewell said.
It became even more complicated when a worker for Jaflo Tree Removal went up in a bucket truck to begin taking down the tree branches and eventually the hives.
“He ended up losing his helmet and he hit the controls, so the bucket was going all over the place until he finally put his vest up over his head and was able to put the bucket down in the yard. But he got stung 40 or 50 times,” Jewell said.
Jewell says the worker was in a lot of pain and was struggling to breathe. He was taken to the hospital but other workers also suffered stings, tearing off their helmets and vests trying to get away.
PennDOT officials say the project had good intentions. Their hope was to take the hives to a bee farm in Susquehanna County since honey bee populations are dwindling.
“That’s what we were originally trying to do, but unfortunately a good deed seems to get punished by the bees. They didn’t want to be removed,” said PennDOT spokesperson James May.
Kevin Baker, the owner of the bee farm, says what happened is not common but now crews will have to wait for the honey bees to calm down before trying again to remove them.
“I personally can’t chop that down with all of the power lines with the liability, but if I can get them on the ground, like i said, and put them on my trailer, I’ll take them home and they’ll be fine,” said Baker.
Baker says there are ways to distract the bees when moving their hives that make the process much safer. He says the contractor did not use those methods.
We don’t know the condition of the worker who was severely stung but Baker says with the right treatment he should be OK.