PPL Utility work crews lift a section of the catalpa tree on Friday, March 1, 2013 that is home to a colony of honey bees behind Leona Brensha’s home
PPL Utility work crews lift a section of the catalpa tree on Friday, March 1, 2013 that is home to a colony of honey bees behind Leona Brensha's home in Duryea, Pa. (AP Photo/The Times Leader, Pete G. Wilcox)

DURYEA, Pa. - They say home is where the hive is. Or something like that.

A colony of troublesome honeybees will settle into new digs in northeastern Pennsylvania after being removed Friday from a back alley in Duryea, where the queen and thousands of her loyal subjects had taken up residence in an old tree several years ago.

They were such a nuisance that neighbors say they couldn't stand to be outside in the summertime. The bees got into garbage and recycling bins, disrupted barbecues and buzzed anyone who got too close.

"It was a big safety issue for us," said Joe Roscioli, 32, who is allergic to bees and whose house is only a few feet from the tree.

Years ago, an annoyed human might've eliminated the problem with a can of insecticide.

But with a mysterious affliction called colony collapse disorder decimating hives around the nation, Duryea's streets supervisor got a bee in his bonnet to save the colony and its 10,000 to 20,000 occupants. So on Friday, PPL Electric Utilities, a tree-trimming crew and several bee experts converged on the alley for a rescue operation.

With a small crowd looking on, licensed apiarist Bill Fisher and other experts drilled several holes in the tree, then inserted probes to establish the lower and upper limits of the hive.

"It's a lot like a colonoscopy for bees," Fisher joked.

Once the 60-foot northern catalpa tree was cut down to size, a crane lifted a 15-foot section of trunk onto a trailer destined for the Hershey area, where Fisher has a small farm. When it gets warmer, Fisher will try to extract the queen, slice out the comb, and transfer the colony to a bee box. Its ultimate destination, if all goes well, is a community garden in Drums, about 30 miles southwest of Duryea.

Such rescues are becoming more common. The state Department of Agriculture said it's seen an increase in calls from exterminators, residents and business owners who want to avoid destroying inconvenient hives and are seeking help.

"Colony collapse disorder has really increased awareness of the importance of honeybees," said Karen Roccasecca, Pennsylvania's state apiarist.

Gino Marriggi, the Duryea streets supervisor who launched Friday's rescue mission, said he couldn't be happier with the outcome.

"The neighbors are happy the bees are going to be gone, and I'm happy nobody's going to destroy them," he said. "It's a win-win."