TMC Employee A Friend of Workers, Bees

Bees might be great pollinators, but they can sure put a hitch in a day’s construction activity.

Crews had to temporarily halt work Thursday on one area of the new TMC Orthopaedic and Surgical Center when a large swarm decided to take up residence on the scaffolding around the third floor. By dusk, they moved into a box of pipe insulation on the fourth floor.

Fortunately, Craig Bechtel, who works in the improvements department, came to the rescue, spraying them with sugar water to keep them busy, while allowing for their safe removal.

Bechtel has removed seven swarms off the property in the past three months alone, including a recent cluster that had congregated near the mother-baby unit on Wednesday.

He traces his interest back to when he was stung as a little boy. “A lot of people might spend the rest of their lives in fear of bees, I suppose, but it was the opposite for me. I became that much more interested.”

It wasn’t, however, until a few years ago when he encountered a hive on the property that he had his chance to actually work with bees. He paid to have the hive removed, peppering the technician with questions.

So began the process of learning how to host bees on his property.

After a colleague was stung from a hive that resided in a coyote den in the wash behind the carpentry shop, Bechtel removed his first hive. What he thought was a few hundred was actually a few hundred thousand as he continued excavating, he recalled. Subsequent removals have been smoother, although he acknowledges being stung is a bit of an occupational hazard.

Bechtel said he’s fascinated by bees because of their complexities and sophistication. He also hopes to do what he can to overcome the “them vs. us” mentality that has evolved with reports of Africanized swarms stinging unwitting victims.

“They can function quite well without us, but we can’t function well without them since we rely on them for food. Without them, we’d have to have millions of people in the fields armed with Q-tips to pollinate flowers by hand.”

Aside from the fact he’s fascinated by his tenants, there’s the honey, which he said has a depth and richness beyond the mass-produced commercial products.

Brad Wedding, TMC’s plant services supervisor, said Bechtel’s unusual talents have been a welcome addition to the staff.

“He helps keep our campus safe, while promoting the environmentally-friendly practice of relocating – rather than killing –  the bees,” Wedding said.

With the construction process a fairly regimented piece of choreography, everyone was happy to see the crews back and, er, buzzing.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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