A couple of months ago the bee hive in our avocado went silent. The hive, located in a cavity, was there when we moved into this house in 1998. We made a few attempts to rid the tree of the hive, fearing that people might get stung coming to the front door. I called companies that move hives but no one would take this on. We sprayed the hive with poison several times and covered the entrance first with plastic screen, which the bees ate through, and then metal screen, which the bees ate through. Finally, we called detente, and the bees came and went freely, while I enjoyed watching their activity from my upstairs office window.
One day this summer the bees disappeared. I didn’t see them go, they were just gone. The tree was quiet for a short while, and then the next tenants moved in, ants. Thousands of ants crawled up and down the tree munching away at the wood. Piles of what looked like saw dust accumulated at the base of the tree. We could no longer ignore the condition this tree was in.
I don’t think that the bees kept the tree healthy. They did, however, keep the decomposers at bay. The tree had lost much of its canopy during the windstorm of 2011. And before that, the old avocado had a significant amount of rot. Nevertheless, the storm’s effect on the tree was clearly very detrimental. And had we removed it following the storm, instead of trying to save it, we would have saved ourselves lots of money and aggravation with the city. You see, the city lifted all tree pruning and removal regulations at that time: no permits, no inspections, no tree replacements. But we tried to save the tree and that very act cost us, both financially and emotionally as we tried to navigate through the city rules.
Two weeks ago we had the tree inspected by an arborist who specializes in heritage (OLD) trees. The news wasn’t good. The tree was not just declining, it was a hazard and had to come down, and so last week it was removed. Although losing an old tree is sad, the skill of those who took it down was amazing to watch.
The tree is gone and a new opportunity has opened up. When I give classes on gardening with native plants I try to encourage those attending to have courage and dive right in. Now, I feel their uncertainty. It is daunting, but the front yard will change, as gardens always do.