For 20 years, the hundreds of buzzing residents of the mahogany tree in front of the Alton Road home on Miami Beach lived harmoniously.
Man and bee coexisted without incident.
Tuesday morning, that harmony came to an end.
Hundreds of bees were wiped out and left as a pile of dead corpses at the foot of their longtime home.
The home’s owner, Richard Rosichan, 72, couldn’t believe what he saw. The bees he had considered pets were killed for no apparent reason, he says.
“I’m heartbroken over this,” Rosichan said. “When I saw that pile of hundreds and hundreds of dead bees, it just turned me inside out.”
For years the bees had lived without harming or being harmed, Rosichan said.
But a neighbor’s complaint – about a different problem, Rosichan is quick to point out – would spark mass extermination. A neighbor had filed a complaint earlier about a nearby house whose driveway was being repaired. Mud and dirt were being spewed onto the sidewalk.
When Miami Beach Code Compliance Officer Joel Madariaga dropped by to follow up, he saw the bees – hundreds upon hundreds of bees, concentrated in a hollowed portion by the roots of the tree.
They were on the swale in front of the home.
Alarmed, Madariaga called back to his office. The Rosichans were not home, but he mentioned to a visitor who had stopped by that the bee problem would be taken care of.
Little did he know he was not doing the homeowners a favor.
Richard and Ellen Rosichan have lived at their Alton Road home for 30 years. Twenty years ago, the bees began frequenting the tree, probably due to a hive located within the hollow, they said.
The environmentally conscious couple, now retired, have been married for nearly 50 years and are avid collectors of precious rocks. Before retirement, Richard Rosichan was a librarian turned self-employed researcher and writer. Ellen Rosichan was a teacher, then worked at a law firm. The couple have criss-crossed the globe following Richard Rosichan’s journey to find the elusive total solar eclipse – a search that began in 1970 with his first sighting in Virginia Beach, VA. So far, he has caught 13.
Ellen Rosichan is a member of Greenpeace. They are serious nature lovers.
“It’s been something that we’ve been concerned about the past decade, the defamation of the environment,” Ellen Rosichan said.
So, they welcomed the buzzing guests to their front yard.
“We kind of treasured them,” Rosichan said.
Every morning, he would look out his upstairs bathroom window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the bees pollinating. He would see them in the flowers, in the bushes. He swears they never stung anyone.
After hearing that Madariaga had promised to get rid of the bees, Rosichan sent him an email pleading for their lives. His emails went unanswered.
Madariaga said he was out of the office and never saw the email until it was too late.
Tuesday morning, as Rosichan was returning from a medical appointment, he saw a man from Apex Pest Control spraying the bees with deadly pesticides.
“I begged him to stop,” Rosichan said. “I ran in and told my wife to get on the phone and start calling people in City Hall.”
The man stopped, but it was too late. Most of the bees were dead.
Ellen Rosichan said the public doesn’t “see bees as a part of our environment that we need to protect, but we should.”