Earlier this summer, Johnathan Remington and his daughter, Torie, were riding bikes across the Warren Avenue Bridge near Bremerton, Wash., when a bee buzzed by his ear.
They didn't know the six-legged creature's hive — along with approximately 60,000 of its comrades — was right under their bike tires. As Torie tried to shoo what she thought was a fly, she got it into the palm of her hand, Remington said, and the bee stung her.
They descended the nearby stairs to Lebo Boulevard to examine the sting when they looked up to find the massive hive underneath the bridge's pedestrian walkway and above the parking lot of the Bremerton Community Theatre.
The sting healed in a few days, but the two haven't been riding across the bridge since.
"She said no more until it's gone," Remington said.
The hive of what are likely Italian honey bees caught the eyes of the city's public works officials, who've been spending a lot of time on Lebo Boulevard's $6 million reconstruction project. The location made further stingings likely and also threatened the lives of the bees once winter sets in.
"Without any shelter they'll all die," said Rick Zimburean, the city's Lebo project manager. "And honey bees are so scarce — we need to do everything we can to help them."
Indeed, blood-sucking Varroa mites, which transmit diseases to bees, have resulted in a decrease in bee population, said Eugene Brennan, a local beekeeper who lives in Manette. He said the hive under the bridge, though, is just not placed well for long-term survival.
"You just look up and go, 'these are in the wrong place, wrong time, on the wrong thing,'" he said.
For the queen of the hive to survive the winter, she must have ample food and kept warm — about 96 degrees. Her worker bees accomplish this feat by forming a ball around the queen and beating their wings together, generating heat, said Brenda Smith of the West Sound Beekeepers Association.
Had the hive stayed under the bridge, Smith said there would have been greater risk to humans. As colder temperatures set in, bees' moods turn less friendly.
"They're getting ready to hunker down for the winter," she said. "They're going to get aggressive."
Kirsten Johnston, a local beekeeper, came Thursday morning, and with the help of a scissor lift, successfully loaded the hive into a plastic container.
Johnston took the bees to her home north of Illahee, where she hopes the queen will survive.
She said she was astonished at where the bees had chosen to locate their hive.
"This is highly unusual," she said. "I've never seen anything like this."
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