Massive honeybee colony rescued from historic Moss Mansion in Billings

Posted at 3:00 PM, Sep 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-14 17:00:09-04

BILLINGS – The annual United Way Day of Caring meant a much-needed tree trimming for the 100-year-old cottonwood trees of Moss Mansion.

But this year’s project came with a sticky complication.

One tree had been identified as a home to a thriving colony of honeybees, which turned out to be much larger than workers anticipated.

Moss Mansion groundskeeper Linda Brewer is passionate about the conservation of pollinators and wanted to work save the colony of bees.

That work fell to the Davey Expert Tree Company and beekeeper Chuck Bushey.

The Davey crew chief was the man doing the trimming and soon realized the hive was much bigger than originally thought.

After some time and many bee stings, the entire tree was felled to try and save the colony.

With the whole rotten tree at ground level, the scope of the hive became apparent.

The colony occupied a roughly 10-foot section of the trunk, weighing hundreds of pounds and dripping with honey.

“I am going to be looking very intently to find the queen bee, who is somewhere inside hiding amongst all the thousands of other bees. And once I find her and separate her from the others, I have a special box that I’ll put her in and then the other bees will get her scent and they will migrate to that box,” said Bushey.

While the size of the hive meant it was a much bigger job than Bushey had anticipated, he was able to locate the queen and safely relocate the colony.

The remains from the trimming of the many large cottonwoods on the property would make great firewood (the non bee-infested portions of course) and are available for pickup from the Moss Mansion to anyone willing to pick them up.

Northwestern Energy donated the manpower, a gift worth around $20,000, providing a necessary service that the mansion could not otherwise afford.

Reporting by Connor Pregizer for MTN News