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Crime & Courts

Bee complaints finally get Hillsborough County action

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Published:   |   Updated: November 14, 2013 at 05:32 AM

CARROLLWOOD — The bees in front of Felicia Minardi’s Carrollwood home often form a thick, black cloud around the tree next to the road, the buzz serving as a warning to pedestrians and bicyclists to steer clear or pay a painful price.

The oak tree is about 30 feet from Minardi’s front door, and the bees swarm around a large, almond-shaped hole in the trunk about a foot above the ground.

Neighbors walking their dogs sometimes knock to say, “Are you aware you have a bee hive in your tree?”

Minardi has had this problem for well over a year. She said the tree is on the county’s right of way, between the sidewalk and the road. County crews have been out to trim the tree but have not addressed the bee problem, though Minardi said she has called numerous times.

“They never did anything,” she said. “They never came out. It is what it is and it is still there.”

County public works officials on Wednesday vowed to take care of the problem and issued a work order for a county crew to take a look in the next day or two.

Minardi might have been calling the wrong department, said public works spokesman Steve Valdez. Whatever the issue, he said, the bees will be gone from the tree soon, he said.

County workers can take care of the bee infestation themselves or will call in a bee handler on retainer with the county.

“We put a work order in and a unit should be responding in the next day or so,” Valdez said. “It’s a health and safety issue so we normally respond within 24 hours. We’re on it.”

Just where the buzzers came from is unknown.

Last year, Minardi contacted a private pest control company to come out and gas and remove the hive. The job cost her about $300, she said, and the tree stayed vacant for several months, but eventually bees, either remnants of the hive destroyed or new ones, found the hole and again set up a humming homestead.

The bees might be from the same colony that attached itself to a tree limb a few months ago across the street in Rindy Chamberlin’s yard. Chamberlin said she noticed a 2-foot by 10-inch clump in her tree that at first she thought was some kind of animal. A closer look found there was no hive, but rather, thousands of bees clumped and writhing together.

“I got very nervous,” she said. “I’ve got a dog and eight grandchildren who live nearby and come visit often.”

And then, she said, “One day, they were gone.”

Whether they moved into the tree across Golf Crest Circle, in front of her house, is anybody’s guess, Minardi said.

“My job now is to stay healthy,” she said, “to not get stung.”

She stood by her car in her driveway Wednesday afternoon, talking and keeping a wary eye on the tree.

“My goodness,” said the 76-year-old woman, “there are a lot of bees.”

She gives the tree and its inhabitants a wide berth when she walks her German short-hair pointer, especially after her gardener was stung a month or so ago as he weeded and trimmed plants around the base of the tree.

She recently read about Africanized bees in Pinellas County swarming around two dogs, killing one on the spot and severely stinging the other and she’s concerned about her safety and the safety of her neighbors.

“At times, they swarm,” she said. “I’ve seen them form a big dark circle that just disappears into the tree.”

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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