311 plea for help with swarming bees is sent to city social planner

Bill Picha supervises transfer of swarming bees to their capacious new hive.

(UPDATE, July 11: since this post, Mario Lee has advised that 311’s actions were consistent with the relevant protocols, but he’s not available to assist on weekends.)

My neighbourhood’s encounter with swarming bees this morning suggests the city’s 311 helpline still needs some tuning up.

The humming of the arriving swarm was audible inside the house at about 11 a.m. and pedestrians walking through the neighbourhood were scattering. There was a ball of bees the size of a World Cup soccer ball hanging from a nearby oak.

First call went out to Allen Garr: no answer.

Next we tried 311. Absolutely the city could help, said the affable 311 receptionist. He promptly put us through to the voicemail of Mario Lee, the social planner who wrote the report on city beekeeping. Not likely to find help there.

A quick check on Google turned up Bill Picha, a Delta beekeeper who picks up swarms at no charge when he can. (They’re valuable to him.) His voicemail box was full, but a text message brought him to our door in 30 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, the swarm was beginning its move to capacious new quarters in Picha’s hive. Once they’re all settled down, he’ll pack them off to earn their keep elsewhere, perhaps a Fraser Valley orchard.

These are hectic days in the bee swarm pick-up business. Picha had 38 calls yesterday alone.

Where did these bees come from? Garr, who called later in the day, speculated they may be a colony that left the new hives on the City Hall roof. If so, they’re in the private sector now.