Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation tree crews found more than they bargained for Thursday as they began cutting down a dead palm tree at Vera Cruz Park downtown.

About 45 feet up into the California fan palm, workers found two large colonies of European honeybees.

In evaluating and executing the project, crews had to take into consideration the preservation of the beehives, removal of the 50-foot tree and the safety of the people in the vicinity of the site, which included a preschool.

Randy Fritz, a city street tree inspector, coordinated the effort in conjunction with Nick Wigle, a representative and associate of the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association.

The removal process took several hours, with Brett Volpi, senior tree trimmer and arborist, at the helm.

Analysis revealed the dimensions of the hives, so they could be safely removed without damage or unnecessary agitation of the bees.

During the removal process, the children at the preschool were kept inside the school at the request of the city crews.

In their efforts, city crews utilized aerial lifts as well as a 50-foot crane to cut and remove sections of the massive palm tree.

The process was a success, in that two sections of the palm tree, each containing a beehive, were kept intact, lowered into the beekeeper’s truck, and ultimately relocated to a more appropriate location.

According to arborist Charles Christman, the city considers bees to be an important natural resource, worthy of protection and preservation.