Bees in Glen Canyon – Update

 We’ve reported here before about the bee tree that was cut down as part of the “improvements” to Glen Canyon Park – and the one that was killed by mistake when someone thought it was a nest of yellow-jackets, not bees. This meant that only one of the three wild bee trees was still a living hive. We recently had both good news and bad news. There’s still only one bee tree, but the bees have proved resilient.

Karen Peteros wrote this note, which is published with permission. [This was originally published at Save the Trees of Glen Canyon Park.]


Scott Mattoon and I have been working with RPD [San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department] Capital Improvements since 2011 to minimize adverse impacts Glen Canyon Park improvements could have on our feral honey bee colonies.

exposed hive with bees (Photo- Scott Mattoon)

Exposed hive with bees (Photo – Scott Mattoon)

One bee tree was lost on the hill above the Rec Center. Despite many many meetings with RPD, and a negotiated agreement to cut that bee tree at 25′ and otherwise leave it alone, the subcontractor failed to get that instruction and cut the tree at 5′. The trunk split and the colony exposed, but I was able to save the remaining bees and queen and install them in a Langstroth hive.

The bee tree that Scott discovered to have had its hive opening spray-foamed shut a few years back (above where Islais Creek goes underground) due to mistaken identification as a culprit of a nearby sting incident, seems to have reopened and a swarm moved in last year. That colony has done well, and recently swarmed (I understand Philip Gerrie retrieved the swarm).

revived hive

Revived hive – Photo (c) Janet Kessler

the bee tree that was killed has bees again

The bee tree that was killed has bees again. Photo (c) Janet Kessler

After many discussions, emails and meetings with RPD, Scott and I have convinced RPD to leave that tree alone for now. It has a substantial lean but, if it were to fall, it would not cross the path especially if RPD would cut off the top limbs right above the crotch where the limbs grow out of the main trunk. That’s been our recommendation but it has not yet been done to reduce the risks if it were to fall.

As usual RPD does what it wants — under-doing things by not cutting the limbs to reduce the risks if the tree were to fall which has been their stated concern but also over-doing things by placing the orange fence around the tree unreasonably suggesting the bees are a safety hazard when they are not. Nonetheless, the orange fence has served to be educational to bring park goers’ attention to honey bees in a natural habitat.

Finally, the very large mother bee tree, fenced down near Silvertree, with the opening in the base is undisturbed but the colony died out after many years of perpetuating itself.

I have not seen any bee activity there since late last year. 

the remaining bee tree

The old bee tree. Photo (c) Janet Kessler

Give the wax moths another year or more and, hopefully, the cavity will be cleaned out sufficiently to be deemed suitable by a future swarm looking to set up residence.

Karen Peteros,
Glen Park neighborhood resident & beekeeper
San Francisco Bee-Cause

Spinning the Bee-Tree Fiasco

We received this letter from Scott Mattoon, a bee advocate who is concerned not just by the killing of the bee tree in Glen Canyon Park’s Natural Areas, but by the reaction of San Francisco Recreation and Parks. If, like us,  you were expecting a heartfelt apology – as when the first bee-hive was killed – it didn’t happen. Instead, there’s spin. We publish the letter below with his permission.


Rec & Park recently posted an update to their website on the Glen Canyon renovation that I found rather disturbing.

[That link is HERE: Glen Canyon Park Renovation: Progress update – work proceeding…]

In reference to the plan to preserve the colony of honeybees living in the trunk of a ponderosa pine originally designated for removal, Rec & Park claimed that “the bees … have been preserved“.  That’s an interesting spin on what I would describe as a fiasco and careless blunder.  The vast majority of that colony died, and with it the likelihood of propagation this year.  Rec & Park’s contractor, DeKay, mistakenly cut the trunk at a height of 5 feet, despite an agreement  with Rec & Park to cut it at 20 feet.  They cut right into the top combs of the colony’s nest, and split the trunk open in the process, leaving the entire nest of this majestic old honeybee colony exposed.

red arrow on bee tree (Photo - Scott Mattoon)

If not for the perseverance, vigilance, stewardship, and expertise of two local residents, the colony would have certainly been lost completely.  In particular, I commend Karen Peteros for rescuing the queen and a small retinue of nurse bees, and hiving them in another part of the city.  We hope they will pull through.

Before the cutting began, I was impressed with Rec & Park’s willingness to work with myself and Karen to come up with a plan to save these bees.  It felt like we had a true partnership in the making, and that Rec & Park recognized the importance of preserving these bees, especially since their department had recklessly exterminated another colony of honeybees in the vicinity less than two years earlier.

[Webmaster: For a link to a report on that unfortunate event, go HERE: When the First Glen Canyon Beehive Was Killed]

It’s easy to assume that losing a colony of bees from the park will have no significant effect on the health or recreational value of the surrounds – just the flap of a butterfly’s wings.   But the loss of confidence in Rec & Park’s ability to effectively manage contractors, to coordinate with residents, and to accept responsibility for mistakes is significant for me and others who followed this story.  It was an opportunity for collaboration and for preservation of a natural resource squandered.


exposed hive with bees (Photo- Scott Mattoon)

Glen Canyon Park Loses Another Bee Tree

Back in October of 2011, SF RPD destroyed a bee tree in Glen Canyon Park.  Now the second one’s gone too, presumably the victim of another mistake.


The first bee hive was mistakenly killed when a park employee mistook the nest – which was registered with the feral bee project – for a hornet’s nest. It was destroyed and sealed before a proper identification was made. SF RPD apologized. That story is HERE.

A lone bee returns to a devastated nest

So what happened this time?


One of the trees scheduled for felling was one of the remaining bee trees, on the slope above Alms Rd. SF RPD agreed to preserve the nest by leaving a 20-foot stump. Instead, it was chopped off at 5 feet, opening up the cavity in which the bees nested.

They’re gone.

[That story, with more pictures including a close-up of the exposed hive, is HERE.]

The former bee tree