When beekeeper Jon Nelson was called to a Mansfield cemetery chapel last week to remove more than 140,000 honeybees, he took it all in stride.
“I get stung a lot, but my job is fun,” Nelson said. “After doing this for a while, after about the 40th bee sting, your natural painkillers kick in.”
David Grant, a member of the Spring Brook Cemetery board, said two large beehives had inhabited Card Memorial Chapel in Spring Brook Cemetery for the past 50 years, and possibly even longer.
Although the chapel has barely been used since the early 1990s, Grant said Friday that the board is beginning to restore the 116-year-old chapel, and getting rid of the bees “was the first logical step,” so contractors would not be afraid to work on the historic structure.
“The bees weren’t really bothering anyone, but they would always fly around outside and there is a negative connotation associated with them,” Grant said. “It was just time to finally get rid of the bees.”
Grant said the board decided to use Nelson’s services because they wanted to ensure the bees would not come back, but did not want to kill them.
Nelson, who owns B.B Nelson Apiaries in Woonsocket, R.I., finished the last major step of the removal Thursday.
Nelson takes pride in focusing on relocating bees, rather than killing them. He has developed an elaborate bee removal process, which involves a custom-made vacuum to safely transport the bees. The bees were relocated to new digs in North Smithfield, R.I., he said.
Nelson said the two beehives found in the chapel ceiling were some of the bigger he has encountered, measuring about 2 feet long, a foot wide, and reaching about 7 feet up.
He said the operation in the chapel took him about 12 hours over three days and only resulted in about seven stings in the process.
That was a minuscule number compared with what he has suffered in the past.
The bees were mostly Carniolan bees, originally from Switzerland and Austria. They are some of “the most docile bees out there,” he said.
“You get stung here and there, but while I’m working, I always get these Zen moments where I realize this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”
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