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Robe-Ann Park abuzz with activity ... naturally

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A beekeeper collects a portion of the swarm of bees that had surrounded its queen in a tree in Greencastle's Robe-Ann Park recently.
It's nothing, naturally, for Robe-Ann Park to be buzzing with activity. And certainly it's not unusual for park officials to be hounded with questions.

But it was a little different recently for the buzzing to be from thousands of bees and the hounding ... let's just say there was a police dog in training getting used to obeying commands in the midst of daily distractions.

"We definitely had two new experiences in the park recently," Greencastle Park Director Rod Weinschenk told the City Council earlier this week.

The bees came first. One afternoon near playground equipment on the south side of the park, Weinschenk said he looked up and "saw a thousand bees flying around one of the trees."

Park officials called in an area beekeeper, who advised that the bees appeared to have outgrown another nearby hive. When their queen found a tree in which to nest, the rest dutifully followed, creating "a good-size beachball of bees to protect her."

"So what we thought was a hive was actually a giant ball of bees," Weinschenk said, explaining that the beekeeper found them to be no stinging threat and just shook the tree branches, in effect dropping the bees into a bucket below.

The beekeeper was thus able to capture the queen and relocate all of her drones outside Robe-Ann Park.

A second, established hive was discovered in a tree near the skatepark, and it will require a difference process for removal, Weinschenk said. The beekeeper will also relocate those bees out of the park.

"It was a real interesting day," the park director added. "We had some Cloverdale kids here job-shadowing me, and it was real interesting for them to see how the bees were cleaned up."

Not long after the bees were all the buzz at Robe-Ann, Weinschenk was driving through the park when he spotted four Indiana State Police cars parked alongside the aquatic center.

Wondering about such a police presence in his park, Weinschenk was happy to find the officers were only training a German Shepherd fresh from emigrating from Poland.

"It was in an area of some distraction," Weinschenk explained, "and the dog was (staying) engaged in doing what he was supposed to be doing."

While the new dog was getting used to listening for proper police commands and completing basic maneuvers amid distraction, Weinschenk had a honey of a brainstorm.

He invited the dog handlers and their canine partner back to the park in a couple of weeks when Robe-Ann hosts a police boot camp June 4-8.

Campers will be able to see the police dog in action if the dog is ready by that time, Weinschenk said.

And besides, maybe they can teach him to chase the bees away ...

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