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  • Writer's picturebrian carlton

I got some Bees if you want em!

I got a voicemail the other day and a voice rang out in a slow Southern Drawl " I got some bees if you want em" They're coming out of this hole here in the side of the house, your more than welcome to them.

Oh boy! if only bees were so scarce that a beekeeper would be willing to come to extract them from a house for free.

Bees can come in all different varieties (races) They can be mean as fire, or they can be gentle, and they can be healthy, or disease/parasite ridden. A package of bees (bees shaken into a box with a new caged queen) can cost $90 -$125 or so, and you know what you are getting, a brand new queen with desirable traits, having been bred for honey production, gentleness, mite/disease resistance. Beekeepers are always on the lookout for a bee that can resist the #1 killer of bees (Varroa Destructor mite) So there is always a chance those feral bees your cutting out of your wall could be that, but the chances are slim, most bees can not survive long without a beekeepers care. But think of all the honey you're going to get: It takes a young queen and 50-80,000 bees to produce honey, and bees only produce honey here in NC for about 6 weeks of the year, you have to keep them in unnatural circumstances to get them to reach such a population in order to make surplus honey. It's a fine line to walk to keep them from swarming away and keep them in the box long enough to reach the nectar flow at peak population. Any beekeeper with any skill probably has more bees than they want due to this fine line, you have to make lots of splits to keep them from splitting themselves. Once you do receive a new colony of bees ( that can potentially live for years), the beekeeper has to provide a hive, feed, and combs/foundation which isn't cheap. When I started beekeeping in 2019 I spent $15,000 starting up. There are also fuel costs and beekeeper time involved. I am a Construction professional with 30+ years of remodeling experience, a licensed General contractor, with General liability, and workers comp, Plus a Journeyman beekeeper with the NC state beekeepers association, I also held a home inspector license for some time.

Now we've established that only someone desperate for bees would be willing to go to the lengths required for the extraction process, more often than not, they will not have any construction experience, so what happens when they cut that pipe? wire? destroy your roof trying to cut out the bees? Causing more damage than a professional's entire fee?

well, why don't I call the exterminator? You would have to spray them every day for a month to kill them all, once they were dead, the small hive beetle and wax moth larvae would take over, and thousands of maggots would crawl out, trying to find their way to the ground to pupate. with no bees to regulate the temperature the wax will melt and honey will start dripping out of the walls, enticing more vermin and flies to the nest. Plus one out of every three bites of food you take is thanks to a bee, without bees we would have 4 years left on the Earth according to Albert Einstein.

Removing the nest is often difficult, we use a heat-sensing laser app on an iPad to locate the nest, then use our understanding of the building's framework we cut into the wall from the inside usually, and start the laborious task of removing the hive, 1000's of not so happy worker bees, and pounds of sticky honey are dripping everywhere. We use a special bee vacuum that stores the bees unharmed in a bucket until we can get them back to a hive, We have to quarantine them away from our main apiaries to insure no spread of disease. We cut out their combs and reuse them by rubber banding them into a hive frame.

During the Summer 9 out of 10 calls out are due to wasps nests, or yellow jackets, so the beekeeper may not want to just run out and get those bees, They will want some pictures first to try and identify the culprit, Honey bees are big and brown and slow, yellow jackets dart around erratically, you can barely see them, hornets are huge, no mistaking those. The majority of beekeepers are over 50 so they are not going to want to work off high ladders, there might be scaffold or boom lift costs incurred, The best approach is to be proactive and seal up any holes/ empty cavities that might entice a bee scout to move in.

Happy cutting out!

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