Anger over bee killing

THE angry bee from Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie would not have been happy if he had buzzed by Endeavour Street, Tweed Heads, last Friday.

The cruel fate of a swarm of bees on a small hibiscus bush has certainly angered retired Queensland detective Graeme Buchanan and Stokers Siding bee catcher Vic Metcalfe.

What started out as a concerned resident's attempt to remove the potentially dangerous swarm of honey-makers ended up with the sudden, unexpected death of hundreds if not thousands of bees.

"I never wanted all those bees killed, I just thought they might be a danger to kids or anyone walking past," Mr Buchanan said yesterday.

Mr Metcalfe hopes Tweed ratepayers won't have to foot a pest controller's bill for the bee-killing episode, because he had arranged to remove the bees alive, and for free, during what he calls a "worldwide honey shortage".

"I'm very concerned about a bloke coming in and spraying the poor little buggers," Mr Metcalfe said.

When Mr Buchanan noticed the bee swarm on the footpath bush outside his Grand View unit on the corner of Bay Street on Friday morning he decided to visit the nearby Tweed Shire Council offices to see if the bees could be removed.

He spoke to shire staff, who gave him a phone number for Mr Metcalfe.

Mr Buchanan recorded a message on Mr Metcalfe's phone about the swarm, then went shopping with his wife Sue, expecting the bees to be removed from the bush later in the day.

He received a call back from Mr Metcalfe advising the bees would be taken away.

After returning home in heavy rain, Mr Buchanan watched from his apartment block as a man placed a cardboard box under the bees, then used a puffer gun to spray white smoke into the swarm.

The bees fell off the tree and plopped into the box. Another man stood nearby and the pair appeared to be disagreeing about something.

A short time later, Mr Buchanan received a phone call from an agitated Mr Metcalfe, who advised him a pest controller had sprayed and killed all the bees.

This was despite the protests of Mr Metcalfe's colleague who had wanted to collect the bees to add to local hives. Both men had arrived at the hibiscus bush at the same time.

Looking on, Mr Buchanan assumed they may have been working together, but he did not venture outside in the rain.

Mr Buchanan and Mr Metcalfe now believes someone at Tweed Shire Council may have "got their wires crossed" and contacted the Byron Shire-based pest controller, even though Tweed Shire Council staff had assisted Mr Buchanan to contact Mr Metcalfe.

Another possible explanation for the bee botch-up is that another resident may have contacted the pest controller, according to Mr Buchanan.

Mr Metcalfe, who removes bee swarms for Tweed Shire for free and adds them to his hives, said he hoped ratepayers would not have to pay for the bee killing episode.

"You can remove bees from a swarm like that just by knocking on the swarm and they'll drop right into a box," he said.

"You don't have to kill them."

Mr Metcalfe worked on a Tweed Shire roads crew before an aneurism forced him to leave his job.

He now keeps bee hives and supplies honey to local shops.

"It helps pay for my tablets," he said.

Mr Metcalfe's son Darren also has bee hives and supplies honey to restaurants.

"People don't realise the world is running out of bees," Mr Metcalfe said.

"It's a serious problem in America and it's starting to happen here. There is a beetle wiping out hives.And a disappearing disease is killing them off; they just pack up and leave and die.

"There are different views on why they're leaving. Some people think it's a genetic problem, or that it's due to crop spraying or genetically modified crops, or radiation from mobile phones and electrical wires.

"But we are running out of bees."

Tweed Shire Council staff could not be contacted yesterday.



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