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Honeybee swarm removed from Hudson's dike road

Hudson beekeeper Stewart Erickson stands in front of the tree on the dike road where an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 honeybees clustered. Erickson gathered them in a hive in a day-long process, and removed them to the countryside five miles from the city.1 / 3
Honeybees swarm on the branch of a tree on Hudson's dike road early Tuesday morning, July 2.2 / 3
Honeybees march into the hive, attracted by honey, sugar water and the scent of the queen bee.3 / 3

The swarm of honeybees that closed the dike road to pedestrians on Tuesday, July 2, have been removed to the countryside some five miles away from Hudson.

“They are probably on some prairie flowers down there today,” Stewart Erickson said over the phone on Wednesday.

Erickson is the Hudson beekeeper who captured the honeybees with the assistance of J.J. Barnes, the city’s parks supervisor.

The removal was a daylong process. The dike road reopened to pedestrian traffic Wednesday morning.

Erickson said he received a call from the Public Works and Parks Department at 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, requesting him to remove the swarm from a tree on the north side of the dike, about halfway to the end.

Public Works and Parks Director Tom Zeuli said a parks worker noticed the swarm while doing early morning maintenance work at the end of the dike.

Erickson with a set of beehive equipment and his beekeeper’s suit.

He and Barnes rigged up a garbage container on a long stick. Erickson extended the container to beneath the swarm, and Barnes used a 15-foot pole saw to cut off the branch that it was on.

The branch and swarm fell into the container.

“And that created quite a buzz, as you can imagine,” Erickson said.

He said the limb was 10 or 12 feet up from the base of the tree.

Erickson had placed a hive nearby on the dike road and put honey at the entrance. He also poured sugar water on the frames inside.

“We just set them down on the ground right in front of that hive and they found the honey immediately,” he said of the bees.

The queen bee entered the hive at some point, Erickson said, “and then everybody wanted in there.”

The marching bees looked like they were being vacuumed in to the hive, he said.

Erickson put Mentholatum on the tree where the bees that had been in the air started to re-cluster. The Mentholatum covered up the pheromones from the queen bee that made the worker bees think she was still on the tree.

“Once we did that, they decided they liked the hive better,” Erickson said.

Erickson estimated that there were 30,000 to 50,000 bees in the swarm.

“They aren’t mean. There were just honeybees looking for a new home,” he said.

He said he didn’t know where they came from. They may have left a hive or been displaced by the June 21 windstorms.

Erickson removed the hive, comprised of two brood chambers stacked on top of each other, at sundown.

He said the hive had to be taken more than two miles from where the honeybees were swarming or they would have flown right back to the spot.

Erickson plans to tend the bees at their new location.

“They’re valuable. I’ve got a lot of new workers,” he said with a chuckle. “We hired 40,000 yesterday.”

He’s not expecting the bees to produce much honey this year, but says they should next year.

Erickson is hoping to get 500 pounds of honey this year from the small apiary he has at his home in Hudson.

He encourages anyone with an interest in honeybees to visit the St. Croix Valley Beekeepers Association website at

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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