Bee swarm removal shuts down Astoria block

Police block off the street. Photo by Roy Renna/BMR Breaking News
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Brian Porr has been calling authorities to complain about his neighbors’ bee-keeping hobby for three years and no one did anything. But on Wednesday the hives were hard to ignore as the bees swarmed, forcing the closure of an Astoria street for most of the day.

A U.S. Postal Service delivery man was the first to spot a tree on 48th Street covered with bees and immediately called 911 around 11 a.m.

Porr’s sister-in-law, AnnMarie Giganti, had just turned her car onto the block when she saw the scene.

“I couldn’t believe it, there were bees everywhere, the mailman was afraid to move,” she said.

The NYPD arrived and kept everyone back while they waited for the Police Department’s bee keeper to arrive. When the removal specialist went to work with a suctioning machine, it took him hours to clear the tree of an estimated 20,000 bees.

“This neighbor keeps two hives on his roof and this morning a queen bee left and the entire hive followed her right to the tree,” Porr said. “For three years I’ve called everyone from the politicians to 311. We tried everything and nobody helped.”

Porr lives so close to the hives he can see them from the kitchen.

“It’s a quality-of-life issue; we can’t ever use the backyard,” he said.

Giganti, whose family lives in the same two-family home as Porr, said her two boys don’t like to go outside.

“My youngest is allergic to bee stings, so he never goes out there,” she said. “We can’t even put up a pool this summer. Last year it was always full of dead bees because they come when they’re thirsty.”

The Astoria residents said they are frequently told when they complain that it is legal in New York state to keep bee hives on private property if they’re properly registered.

“It’s very frustrating as a homeowner that the city allows this in a residential neighborho­od,” Giganti said.

But the bee population won’t likely be bothering the families - at least a while.

“They filled two 20 pound bags of bees this afternoon,” Porr said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 5:43 pm, May 8, 2014
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Reader feedback

William Sweeney from Long Island says:
Mr. Porr is a liar and an uneducated paranoid trouble maker. When Honeybees swarm, they do not take the whole hive. They on;y take from 2 to 8 lbs. of bees, leaving the majority of the bees there to perpetuate the hive. No honeybee swarm ever weighs close to 20 lbs., let alone 40 lbs.
He should get an education on Honeybees and quit spreading the paranoia lies into the media
Honeybees are the most human beneficial insect on the planet.
Without them, we would likely all starve to death.
May 8, 2014, 2:27 pm
A NYC Beekeeper from NYC says:
The press should check facts as well. Uninformed people will spread misinformation and articles that quote those who do not know what they're speaking about can create an illusion of danger when none truly exists.
May 8, 2014, 4:11 pm
Steini from NYC says:
20,000 bees weigh in at 40 lbs? That would make 1 gram bees! A typical honeybee worker should weighs about a 10th of a gram. Your math is off by an order of a magnitude...
May 8, 2014, 4:41 pm
al from rh says:
Honey bees rarely sting....They are so important for the earth's survival.
May 8, 2014, 5:10 pm
Scott from SE Iowa says:
And.. this type of ignorance is why I got away from the cities.. I dont speak of keeping bees, I speak of people over reacting when they see them. AFAIK most people around here understand that when bees swarm they are safer to be around than any other time of their lives. You could walk up and pat the cluster of bees and not get stung.
Did you know honey bees dont want to sting? They DIE when they sting, so they prefer NOT to sting unless you REALLY make them angry. The neighbor is more likely to be stung by a wasp from his own shed than one of the neighbors honey bees.
May 8, 2014, 6:41 pm
Billie from NY says:
So Porr "can't ever use the backyard", yet the beekeeper collecting them does not even have to use a veil or gloves. Give me a break! Look up "alarmist" in the dictionary and you will see Porr's picture.....

Times Ledger should be ashamed of such shabby reporting.
May 9, 2014, 9:40 am
Angie post says:
Yes bees are very important to our existence as we all know but I do understand the uncertainty that is felt when you have children allergic to can be quite "alarming" to have to face the possibility of your child getting stung in your own yard.if the bees were kept by the owner in a consistent manner with the proper guidelines they would not have been a nuisance for so long but as you can see he is quite the amateur.unless you are a parent and have dealt with epipens and allergic reactions it is unnerving to hear such ignorant comments targeted to the concerned mr porr!!!!!
May 9, 2014, 3:51 pm
brian porr from astoria says:
for those of you who don't understand a child's fearful reaction to bees shouldn't comment. As an adult when if I see a bee I have no problem stepping on it. They don't frighten me. The reference to weight was directly from the police officer who informed me at the scene. I could careless how many or how much they weighed. The point is this bee keeper has no control over his hives. One of you brought up a good point......move away from the city!!!!!
May 9, 2014, 3:54 pm
Mark says:
Honeybees forage in a 3-4 mile radius of thier hive, so continue to live in fear and ignorance, as bees from the 200 other registered hives conitinue to visit, swarm, or abscond from thier hives. I wonder how many unregistered hives there are ?
May 10, 2014, 12:21 pm
Linda says:
"if the bees were kept by the owner in a consistent manner with the proper guidelines they would not have been a nuisance for so long but as you can see he is quite the amateur." How can you see that he's an amateur? Because they swarmed? That happens to even the most seasoned beekeeper. Or is it because an alarmist neighbor says they are?

"for those of you who don't understand a child's fearful reaction to bees shouldn't comment." I teach preschool gardening. I understand a child's fearful reaction to bees. I bet more of those who are responding here also understand it, they just don't agree with you on how to deal with it. To encourage that fear is irresponsible and harmful to the child. To calmly educate them about bees and their most-often-gentle nature is much more responsible and kinder to the child. I have done it myself. Bet one of those kids ends up being a beekeeper, she was so fascinated. A smile of fascination is much better than a grimace of fear.

Sadly, most often when someone says they're allergic to bees, they aren't. If the child in question truly is allergic, as in "has an Epipen and will die without it" allergic, I can see a cause for concern and a reason that maybe the beekeeper could be a little more sympathetic IF he was approached nicely. If the child is like the vast majority of people who say they're allergic, but it's the just "swells up a bit like everyone else" allergic, then they have nothing to worry about except life itself . Life is painful, but nothing to be afraid of if you're taught not to fear everything.
May 10, 2014, 2:21 pm
LeeB from Long Island says:
Was this a real emergency, or advocacy reporting?

Seems the response to this event was largely hysterical........Hysterical by the neighbor, by the Police as they blocked traffic, and most importantly, by the slant of the article as written. There are likely as many bees living in trees in somebody's back yard or in voids in congested areas as there are bees living in bee hives in NY.

Honeybees are endemic to all of NY today. Get over it.
Train the police about bees and how to respond to a honeybee swarm. A swarm of bees is NOT an emergency! :-)
July 19, 2014, 8:14 am

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