QUEENS — Swarming wasps stung several Kew Gardens residents after city workers cut down a tree housing their nest — with city officials telling concerned locals they won’t remove the ornery insects because they are “an important part of nature.”
The tree, on Kew Gardens Road near 82nd Road near P.S. 99, was removed by the Parks Department on Sept. 7 “due to poor health,” after a resident asked the agency to inspect it, the department said.
The nest was left in the stump, with someone placing a traffic cone there with a sign reading, “Danger Bees Ahead.”
The insects, which experts said are yellow jackets, have become aggressive and started attacking passersby, residents said.
Howie Sydell, 53, a legal videographer, got stung multiple times on Wednesday around 1:30 p.m. while walking his dog.
“As we are walking down Kew Gardens Road, all of a sudden I’m feeling what felt like bites on my hand and on my legs,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was and then I saw a sign facing the other way ‘beware of bees’ so I started moving a lot quicker.”
Sydell said he got stung about five to six times.
About a month ago, as trees in the area were being prepped for pruning and removal, he saw a sign near the location warning that there was a nest there.
“I thought they will come, remove the hive, and then they will knock the tree down. But that didn’t happen, unfortunately,” he said, adding he also reported the issue to the 102nd Precinct.
Several other people also got stung recently, including at least three local parents with kids at P.S. 99, according to a post on a local Facebook page.
“They are definitely swarming this morning and lots of people are walking to and from school,” one mother wrote in a post Thursday morning.
The mother also said she contacted an NYPD beekeeper and was told to report the issue to 911 and they would send assistance.
Beekeeper Wally Blohm, who oversees beehives at the Queens County Farm Museum, visited the site Wednesday night, but he can’t remove the nest unless the city asks him to.
“Yellow jackets are known to be aggressive, that’s why so many people are getting stung there.”
The NYPD referred DNAinfo New York to a city website titled “Bees or Wasps Complaint,” which noted that the city “does not accept requests to eliminate bees or wasps from residential, commercial, or public property.”
Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, confirmed that regulation and noted that “these creatures are an important part of nature, so the City will not destroy them.”
“If the insect nest or hive is causing you to have major concerns, you can get a tree work permit to hire a bee/insect re-locator to move the nest or hive,” Lalor said in an email. “The City will not be responsible for any costs associated with this work.”
Lalor also said Thursday that “as a courtesy we will send our exterminator to spray the stump today,” but if the insects continue to be a concern, she said, “residents can pursue other actions,” such as applying for a permit to remove the nest.
Sydell, however, expressed concerns about letting the situation fester.
“It’s definitely something that needs to be addressed immediately,” he said. “If somebody has an allergic reaction, it could be fatal.”