CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
LLANO — Walter Schumacher, known as the “Bee Czar” of Central Texas, not only catches bees, he knows what they’re thinking.
“If they bump into you like this, they’re telling you that you have 30 seconds to leave them alone or they’ll sting you,” he said, while standing just inches away from a feral bee hive containing an estimated 250,000 bees in the trunk of a giant oak at Badu Park.
On July 19, Schumacher inspected his bee trap, or “box,” surrounding the main entryway of the hive, located three feet off the ground adjacent to a sidewalk and a parking area.
“These bees aren’t aggressive, but they are wild creatures, so you never know how they will act or react,” he said. “The only way to combat that is to relocate the bees. Our belief is you don’t have to kill the bee hive.”
WATCH VIDEO FOR MORE ON THE ‘BEE CZAR’ IN LLANO
The Bee Czar primarily works with Austin-area clients and has relocated hives at residences in Horseshoe Bay and Marble Falls.
The City of Llano invited Schumacher, who operates Austin-based Central Texas Bee Rescue, to offer solutions about the growing hive.
“We have comments from people who jog here in the city park and some who park here. They said they’ve been attacked by bees,” Llano City Manager Brenton Lewis said. “We’re just trying to address it. We don’t want to kill the bees because they are very important for pollination.”
Over several years, the hive has stretched farther into the large oak. Concerns include damage to the tree as well as a growing number of bees.
The pesky feral bee hive in the popular park could turn into a profitable venture should city leaders buy into Schumacher’s proposal to relocate and grow the colony into a “mini-apiary” in another more remote area of the park. An apiary is collection of bee hives used for pollination and harvesting honey.
“We have play parks not 200 yards from here. If we were to look at this venture of 100 or so bee hives, we would need to make sure they’re in a safe place and we’re not putting children in danger,” Mayor Mike Virdell said. “We do have quite a bit of river frontage here that we can take a look at this project.”
As much as 30 percent of feral bee colonies have disappeared over the past several decades, and the number of bees are declining, Schumacher said.
“People have co-existed with honey bees for thousands and thousands of years,” he said. “People who have been organically gardening for 40 years, they can’t get cucumbers to grow because they don’t have bees.”
The Bee Czar believes communities must nurture hives and avoid destroying them to preserve the symbiotic relationship between humans and bees.
“Einstein theorized that four years after the extinction of the honey bee, humans would follow. Is it 100 percent correct? I don’t know. But is it food for thought? Yes. Do we need to eat food? Yes. Do bees help us make food? Absolutely,” he said. “And they also produce a wonderful food themselves called honey. The more bees, the more fruit, vegetables and honey, and the easier for humans to survive.”