By N. M. Cedeño
What would you do if you discovered honey bees had moved into a wall of your house? My brother, who lives near Dallas, Texas, had this issue recently. Here is what to do.
First, you call a beekeeper. The beekeeper will come to your home and takes thermal images of the area of wall where the hive is believed to be located. In my brother’s case, the hive was between the floors of his home. The bees had found a hole to enter between where the brick-covered ground floor ended and the HardiPlank covered upper story began. Based the on the thermal images, the beekeeper estimated 3 cubic feet of hive had been built between the exterior wall of the house and the floor joists supporting the second floor. The bees were under the floor of the upstairs master bedroom!
Next, you send notice to all your neighbors warning them to stay indoors and keep their pets indoors at the date and time of the removal. The beekeeper, in a piece of masterful understatement, said this is necessary because the bees will become “defensive” when he starts to remove the hive. And, 60,000 to 70,000 “defensive” honey bees are not to be trifled with. The extraction cannot be done during the workday. Instead, in order to remove as many bees as possible, the bees have to be removed around dusk as foraging bees return to the hive.
On the day of the extraction, the beekeeper arrives and goes to work removing the bees and their home. For my brother, this meant the HardiPlank and plywood exterior wall on his house by the hive was removed, exposing the insulation. Insulation was removed to reveal a massive bee hive. The beekeeper went up and down a ladder for several hours, carefully cutting down panels of hive and inserting them into hive boxes that he brought with him, cutting the honeycomb to fit as needed. (For the enormous hive in my brother’s wall, a single box was not sufficient.) As he accomplished the removal, the beekeeper searched for the queen. Her capture was vital to the process. If he could find her, her colony would follow her.
If you are a normal person, you hide safely out of the way while the bees are extracted, allowing the beekeeper in his white protective suit to handle the matter. My brother, on the other hand, constructed a protected space for himself on his lawn: mosquito netting over a framework under which he placed a chair, so that he could sit and observe the beekeeper as he worked, with tens of thousands of angry bees buzzing around him.
Then, you, um, get a pizza delivered. As the hours went by, my brother in his netting safety cage, became hungry. So of course, he ordered a pizza to be delivered. But, how could he retrieve the pizza without endangering himself or the delivery person? Well, the hive was on the front of his home. He would see the driver arrive. It would be a simple matter for the beekeeper to walk over and accept the pizza, bring it to my brother, and slip it under the netting. The beekeeper agreed. So when the driver arrived, he stayed in his car, and the beekeeper asked him to lower the window just enough to slide the pizza out. This process worked as planned. Neither the delivery driver nor my brother was stung.
I suspect that the pizza delivery driver had never delivered to a fully suited beekeeper before. Hopefully, he wasn’t traumatized by the experience. My brother says he tipped the driver generously and shared the pizza with the beekeeper.
Hours later, the bee hive is finally completely removed from the wall, and you get to taste the honey. The beekeeper supplied my brother with a chunk of honeycomb in a plastic bag. My brother reported that the honey tasted good. The next day, my brother received more news from the beekeeper. The hive had contained two queens, a mother queen and a new successor queen who had just emerged. The hive would have split with about half the bees swarming to follow the exiting queen, possibly within a matter of hours, if the beekeeper had not removed the hive when he did. With two queens and approximately 70,000 bees, the beekeeper was hoping to get two producing hives from the original one. A few days later, the beekeeper brought my brother two jars of honey.
Finally, the hole in the side of your house has to remain open for two days to allow bees from other hives to raid what is left behind. The raiding bees perform the final cleaning process, extracting any remaining honey. After two days, my brother got to repair and repaint his home. He planned to caulk very well to ensure no new bees move in.
N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her debut novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).