When NYPD beekeeper Detective Anthony Planakis shook a four-pound swarm of bees from a tree branch and into a box on Monday afternoon, the crowd of spectators on West 72nd Street on the Upper West Side burst into applause.
The swarm, an estimated 18,000-20,000 bees, was first noticed today by a resident who contacted the NYC Beekeepers Association's Andrew Cote. Cote said, "If it were a less congested area"—it was between Broadway and West End Avenue—"I might have shaken the tree," so he called the police.
An NYPD Emergency Services truck arrived, as did a cherry-picker, which lifted Planakis to the branch. After carefully pruning away some obstructing branches, he put on his gloves and mask and gently eased the bees into a box.
While Planakis managed to get the queen and the majority of the bees, there was still a distinct cloud of bees buzzing around the box as well as in the tree. Planakis said those bees would eventually return to its home hive, wherever that is. He noted that this swarm was much smaller than the swarm he encountered in Astoria earlier this month: "That was 12 pounds!"
As for why Planakis manually shook the tree, versus using a vacuum, he pointed out that it depends on the situation: "If the bees are on the wall, I can't shake the wall." He also said it seemed to be "bee swarm season," since we've had a "heavy pollen season" thus far. Planakis recalled, though, a few years when spring came early, "I had 33 swarms that year."
An elderly woman who had been watching the removal of the swarm subsequently ran into her friend around the corner on West End and crowed, "You just missed the most wonderful scene!"