A buzzzzzzz: City forced into honey business

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 29, 2004

There are certain problems in the city that have an automatic solution. Got a pothole? Call the street department. Power line fall on the swing set? Call the power company. Got a sewage leak? Cover your nose.

But what happens when you walk outside your office door and more than 1,000 bees have decided to park the bus less than 10 feet away? You’re not calling ghostbusters for this one.

Retired Rev. H.C. Hill watched the last of his bee hive fly away last year.

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“The hive got weak,” he says matter-of-factly.

Since then, the man-made bee hive he kept out back housed only a block of artificial bee wax and a dozen or so thin slices of wood to create a ventilation system.

When Demopolis City Clerk Vickie Taylor walked outside her office door Thursday morning, and noticed the pesky flight patterns of golden bees, she didn’t call the street department or the power company. She called Hill.

She also closed her door.

Hill responded to the “emergency” around mid-afternoon Thursday, wrapped himself in a white shield, gloves and a netted hat, and saved City Hall.

Then again, this was just another trip around the area for Hill.

“This is the third time I’ve gotten a hive from around here,” he said, pointing toward the back of City Hall.

And ever since he was a child, watching his grandfather “bee hunt,” he’s rounded up his share of the honey producers.

“[My grandfather] would go to a spring, find a bee, and then follow it to the hive,” Hill said.

In his curt manner, Hill indicated the hunt wasn’t too difficult — if following a bee for hundreds of yards could be considered easy. And following the bees couldn’t be considered the toughest part for the normal person.

“I really haven’t gotten stung a lot, but I did get it last year,” he said. “I guess I got stung about 25 times.”

After Hill’s wife prodded him to the emergency room for a steroid shot, he went straight back to catching bees — both black bees and three-band Italian bees (the kind perched obnoxiously at City Hall on Thursday).

In this specific case, Hill said he planned to return Thursday night to remove the bees from City Hall and take them home.

“The last hive I had, there wasn’t really a lot of honey,” he said. “It all turned to sugar.”

This time, maybe the city can provide Hill with a little honey.