Thirty thousand unhappy bees dangled over downtown Minneapolis Monday morning.
Far below, equally unhappy pedestrians watched chunks of honeycomb tumble down onto the south plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center as the swarm tried to set up housekeeping in the brittle branches of a sumac tree beside bustling 3rd Avenue South.
That's when a lone figure, swaddled in beekeeper white, rolled to the rescue in the back of a boom truck.
"I'm trying to safely remove the hive so we can relocate it, so it doesn't fall on anyone's head," said Misty Hoffman, an interior designer for the county by day and an amateur beekeeper, also by day.
It's swarm season in Minnesota, when honeybees fan out in search of new homes.
Sometimes, they pick the wrong neighborhood.
As the truck hoisted Hoffman high in the air, she reached out with her improvised honeybee moving van — a cardboard box taped to a long pole.
Carefully, carefully, she positioned the box under the swarm and … poked the bees. Bees tumbled into the box, buzzing indignantly.
Hoffman descended with her prize and poured the bees into the hive she'd brought from home. There was only one bee she really needed to get out of the tree. The queen. If she could get the queen into the hive box, the rest of the colony would follow. She had a backyard apiary that would make a much more comfortable home for all 30,000 of the little pollinators.
Again and again, she made the trip up the tree. When there were more bees in the hive than in the sumac, she knew she'd captured the queen.
Once she rescued the hive, she slipped her buzzing cargo into the trunk of her car, drove an hour east to Roberts, Wis., and settled the bees into their new home.
She didn't get a single bee sting.
"Honeybees are amazing, and they're quite gentle," said Hoffman, who took up beekeeping three years ago. "And we need them."
We need the bees desperately. Without the pollinators, there would be no apples, no almonds, no tomatoes, no chocolate. Eighty percent of the flowering plants on this planet rely on pollinators, and so do we.
We don't have to suit up and wrestle swarms out of trees to be heroes.
We could start by not spraying pesticides all over the flowers. Pollinator populations are cratering so fast that Minnesota will pay you to plant pollinator-friendly, pesticide-free flowers in your yard, replacing your lawn with a bee-friendly habitat.
Speaking of bee friendly, Hoffman reports that the downtown bees are settling in to their new home over the border.
"It was really fun," Hoffman said of her honeybee bailout. "I'm a huge bee nerd. I love them."
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