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Old 11-17-2011, 10:30 AM
tripthicket tripthicket is online now
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Honey Bees Nesting In My Home's Walls: Ever Been There?

History: This house has been in my family since 1973, and to my knowledge, we haven't had to deal with this type of problem before (I didn't actually live there from about 1980 to 1995ish). Termites, yes. Cockroaches, yes. Wasps, yes. But not honeybees. The house is not in the greatest of repair, as I have worked only sporadically over the past 10 or 11 years. Two sides of the house are brick, and two sides are covered in wood siding. The wood siding has, for lack of a better word, rotted along the very bottom edge.

This has allowed these honey bees to enter into the exterior walls and apparently begin a nest. This access point is located in about the center of the back of the house; I noticed it some weeks ago as I was taking out the trash (we keep our receptacles in the back until the night before Trash Pick-Up Day). What I actually saw (and still see today, albeit with steadily increasing numbers) were several honey bees flying into and out of this "opening." To date, the bees have done nothing but fly in and out, leaving me alone as I stand there looking from about 10 or 15 feet away, but then I don't stand there very long.

It's only in the past week that I've found any honey bees actually inside the house: first 1, then 2 at a time. In both cases, the bees were fixated with the kitchen lights/ceiling fan. I'm thinking the bees could have gotten in 1 of maybe 3 ways: 1) they could've somehow gotten in through the back door, which is really the only door we use to go in and out of the house; 2) they could've wriggled through the weak seals of the multiple-decades-unused patio door, which is not too far from the nest itself; or 3) they could've entered from the attic, through the kitchen ceiling fan, which doesn't have an air-tight seal with the ceiling. Further, these bees were only noticed and dealt with an hour or two after sunset -- bees, honey or otherwise, are diurnal, IIRC.

Doing a little online research, I do believe I have a very large problem on my hands. Instead of a few dozen bees, I could be looking at a nest that may contain as many as 100,000 bees. The nest could be in the exterior wall (who knows how big it is by now), or extend straight up into the attic, where the bulk of the nest could be (and where it could theoretically spread the length of the house -- shudder). I've read how a swarm of bees of this size, when angered, could pose a danger to the entire neighborhood, spreading out in a swarm that encompasses several houses/blocks around me. Yow! It's becoming more and more apparent to me that I, armed with a can of Raid or two, will not be able to deal with this problem -- to attempt such would mean, again, the neighborhood around me may pay a price, and I myself could be in danger of actual death from tens of thousands of stings.

Even winter isn't going to solve this for me. Here in Louisiana, we typically don't get the rawest, coldest weather until late January and February -- it's not unusual for us to have days hovering the 30s and soaring to near 80 in the same week during the "winter" months. My research told me that the interior of honey bee nests can be a comfortable 95 degrees, even if the weather right outside it is -40 degrees, thanks to the bees themselves "flexing a certain muscle" to generate heat.

So. A professional service is clearly going to be called for. Part of the exterior wall along the back of the house may need to be removed. It's likely the house may need to be evacuated during the removal procedure. I'm blanching at the very real possibility that this endeavor will cost me several hundred dollars as a minimum, and very likely will cost much more, with the problem getting worse every day. And I dread waking up one day to find that the honey bees, in vast numbers, have finally found a way into the house interior. Imagine waking up to find your bedroom swarming with a few dozen or hundred bees!

TL;DR version: my house has acquired a honey bee nest of indeterminate size. I know something needs to be done, and soon; I even kinda know what that something to be done is. I'm posting this here to open a discussion, with the following talking points:

1) Has this ever happened to you? If so, what were the realities of the situation to be dealt with?

2) How did you solve the problem? Service? Do-it-yourself? Hope the problem went away?

3) If you engaged a service, how much did it set you back? What did they have to do? Did you have to live elsewhere while it was being done?

Of course, the situation for me is only made worse by the fact that I haven't worked in 6 months. There is now a very strong possibility that I will be employed in the next few weeks, so that's good. But the months of unemployment mean my financial situation may not allow me to take care of this problem for another 1 - 3 months, depending on the problem's severity. And as I said, I know that not taking care of the problem allows it to grow with every passing day...

Looking forward to your anecdotes, advice, and even factual information. Mods, I judged this to be the best place to start this thread, as opposed to General Questions; if it's not, please move as appropriate. Thanks to all for any help you can give!
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  #2  
Old 11-17-2011, 10:46 AM
Sarabellum1976 Sarabellum1976 is offline
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Aren't there beekeepers that are so desperate for honeybees that they'll come get them for free, or even buy them from you? I think they call them "bee wranglers".

A neighbor of my mom's wound up with a giant beehive in one of her front trees, and called a local company with a silly name like "The Bee Lady" that was there within an hour to corral the bees for her and cart them off. According to the neighbor, the Bee Lady was so thrilled for the opportunity to add so many bees to her own honeymaking production, that she was scared some OTHER beekeeper would get the inside scoop and get to the bees first.
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:50 AM
brewha brewha is offline
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That exact thing happened to my parents' house. Honey bees got into the block foundation and made a hive.

I may have very good news for you. My dad was able to get rid of them for about $20 in material. He got some metal screen and "great stuff" expanding foam. Since you know where they're going in and out, you're in good shape. Hopefully there's only one entrance.

What you do is roll a cone out of the screen. The big end of the cone needs to be about 2' in diameter and the little end needs to be one bee size in diameter - around 1/4 to 1/2"

Then, secure the big end of the cone over the opening to the hive with the expanding foam. Really, you can secure it anyway you want, but the foam works well.

What happens in the worker bees can leave the hive but they can't get back in. Be aware, that after you put the cone on you will likely have a lot of bees buzzing around that cone for a few days.

Eventually, the bees inside the hive will decide that this place isn't working any more and they will leave. It was actually pretty spectacular when they left my folks' house. All the bees came out of the house and hung from a branch of a tree in the yard. It was a huge mass of bees. Probably 2-3' in diameter and hanging down a good 3'-4'. All the bees were there - just hanging on to each other.

My dad called a beekeeper and he confirmed that they were just doing what bees do. When they decide to move the hive, they will all 'swarm' (which is the term he used for them hanging in a mass) and the drones will go out to find a more suitable place. Once its found, the bees leave. Which is exactly what happened. They hung there for two days and then they were just gone.

I do want to point out that you are in very little actual danger. Honey bees don't attack unprovoked. Just be sure not to pinch any of them while you're putting up the cone and you'll be fine.
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:51 AM
brewha brewha is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarabellum1976 View Post
Aren't there beekeepers that are so desperate for honeybees that they'll come get them for free, or even buy them from you? I think they call them "bee wranglers".

A neighbor of my mom's wound up with a giant beehive in one of her front trees, and called a local company with a silly name like "The Bee Lady" that was there within an hour to corral the bees for her and cart them off. According to the neighbor, the Bee Lady was so thrilled for the opportunity to add so many bees to her own honeymaking production, that she was scared some OTHER beekeeper would get the inside scoop and get to the bees first.
That's true of a hive in a tree. The real issue is how to get them out of the house first.
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:54 AM
Ellen Cherry Ellen Cherry is offline
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Since the OP is looking for help from others who have dealt with the problem, I'm moving this thread to IMHO from MPSIMS.
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:55 AM
Filbert Filbert is offline
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Unless you have a big problem with 'Africanised' bees locally- and so ar as I can find there are very few records of them being found in Louisiana, you probably have normal, domesticated bees, which aren't aggressive, so first off - don't panic.

If you've had no aggro yet- despite standing fairly close to where the nest probably is, it's unlikely they'll suddenly start. I wouldn't start taking the wall down without protective clothing, but most bees will only sting if the actual nest in interfered with. The danger of bees is massively overhyped.

Have you tried contacting a local beekeeping group? Depending on where the nest is, they might even be able to remove the nest free- as it's possibly a swarm from one of their hives, and they can get a free colony out of it- and if that's not possible, they'll also likely know who's good and cheap to remove it- they may actually be able to poison them without removing the nest, if it can't be removed.

It'll take years to build up to the enormous size you're worried about- it sounds like it's quite a new colony, probably a cast (small breeding swarm) from this summer, and if it's getting at all cold, the colony won't be growing fast, as they stop laying over winter, and practically hibernate- though bees can survive in tree trunks in Siberia, they're not active over winter even when the temperature is a lot higher.

Last edited by Filbert; 11-17-2011 at 10:57 AM.. Reason: Grammar
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:00 AM
brewha brewha is offline
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Here's a video of a swarm in a tree. Pretty much exactly like what I saw and my parents' house:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi2sS...eature=related
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  #8  
Old 11-17-2011, 11:06 AM
shiftless shiftless is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarabellum1976 View Post
Aren't there beekeepers that are so desperate for honeybees that they'll come get them for free, or even buy them from you? I think they call them "bee wranglers".
Yes, there are "bee wranglers." Someone in your area would probably be glad to get a free hive. That said, a hive inside the wall of a house is not easy to get out. Somehow the wall is going have to be opened up. Some beekeepers have a vacuum that can gently suck the bees out but in order to get to the queen they will probably need to get to the comb. In order to get the comb, the wall has to be opened, a little or a lot. If the bees are just sucked out or killed you will still have a huge mess in the wall that will attract ants, wax moths and yellow jackets.

I would probably go with a professional here and I keep bees. The real problem is cleaning out and repairing the wall. So calling a bee wrangler might be a good deed but once he leaves with the bees, you still have work to be done. The beekeepers should at least cut out the comb. Then you can get a repairman to do the rest.

I don't think you need to worry about the bees going crazy and attacking your neighbors unless you live in an area with Africanized bees. I see you are in the south, so that is a possiblity, but the they aren't as bad as TV would have us believe.
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:21 AM
tripthicket tripthicket is online now
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Never mind; misread the mod note.

As for the replies so far, thanks! I am feeling much less apprehensive already, and am exploring avenues as the day proceeds.

Last edited by tripthicket; 11-17-2011 at 11:25 AM.. Reason: Comprehensive Reading Is Comprehensive!
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:34 AM
chiroptera chiroptera is offline
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Yes! Well, not my own house, thankfully. But on more than one occasion with clients' houses - I'm a painting contractor. Most recently about three weeks ago actually - a client had a very large bee hive removed from the attic, she hired "bee wranglers" and they left a big hole in an upstairs ceiling where they gained access to the hive and removed it. I repaired the drywall and repainted the room. She told me that they had no idea until her son came home one day, went to his room and discovered hundreds of bees in there - the weight of the hive had finally broken through the ceiling and bees just poured inside.

On another job, landlord called me to repaint an apartment telling me there was "sticky stuff" all over one wall that I'd have to deal with. The sticky stuff turned out to be honey oozing through old plaster walls and again, there was a very large hive; I told him to call a professional to remove the hive. Another time, we were painting the exterior of a large house and I realised that a big area of siding was vibrating. And humming. Then noticed a lot of bee activity in and out of a gap in the siding. That turned out to be a humungous hive and they had a company come out and remove it.

That's just three of quite a few - but the bottom line is, yes, you probably need to hire a professional, although it may be worth checking around for someone who will take hives for free (someone advertises on my local craigslist regularly, looking for free hives.) I don't know what the cost is, but I've sometimes had to repair drywall and repaint and so on after hive removal. If funds are tight that is something you can do yourself.

I've also seen what brewha described - the relocating colonies. Both times when we were painting a home's exterior. One of those times the homeowners called a free-hive-removal guy and I was there when he came to get them :shudders: and the other time, the homeowner was advised just to give the bees time to leave. Which they did, but I halted painting until then because I wasn't excited about the idea of being on top of a 40-foot ladder with a giant ball of bees in an adjacent tree.

I was swarmed and very badly stung when I was 8 years old, so while I am pretty blase about a lot of things and have managed to overcome my squickieness about bees pretty handily, I still don't deal well with even the thought of thousands of them at once!
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:51 AM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Originally Posted by brewha View Post
What happens in the worker bees can leave the hive but they can't get back in. Be aware, that after you put the cone on you will likely have a lot of bees buzzing around that cone for a few days.
You should bee ashamed of having missed a fantastic pun opportunity!
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Old 11-17-2011, 01:31 PM
beowulff beowulff is online now
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I’ve had bees in the walls of my house at least 3 times since I’ve lived there. Each time I paid a beekeeper to come out and do what he thinks is best. Each time, he’s just nuked the colony. It’s never been a big deal, but I would always pay $150 for a professional to do it, especially if it’s a big colony. Also, if it’s a really big hive, you can’t just kill the bees and walk away - you need to clean the honey out, or it will attack more bees, and possibly ruin your walls.
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Old 11-17-2011, 02:50 PM
LateComer LateComer is offline
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Honey Bees Nesting In My Home's Walls: Ever Been There?
No, I've never been in your home's walls.
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Old 11-17-2011, 02:59 PM
phouka phouka is offline
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There's a big difference between getting a beekeeper to come out and pick up a swarm or external nest and dealing with a hive built into a structural wall.

A swarm is non-aggressive. You can literally snip off the branch they're hanging from, lower it into a box, cover them, and take them home with you. An external nest is more complicated, but not that bad, because once the bees are gone, you can remove all the comb.

With a hive inside a structural wall, it's time to call in professional specialists, because you're not only dealing with the bees themselves, but all the comb they've built in the wall cavity and what they've put into it.

Beeswax? Very flammable.

Stored pollen? Will attract other bees and insects, probably flammable, and just not a good idea to keep around.

Bee larvae? If you remove the bees, they'll die inside the comb, and then you've got another reason for all manner of insects and animals to get in there for a snack. If you manage to prevent that, well, the larvae are going to start decaying, and in LA, that's not going to smell good.

And the honey. First, every thing with a nervous system and a digestive tract is going to try to get to whatever honey is still there. Bees have stingers to defend their honey. Once they're gone, word gets out. Plus, without the bees there to constantly fan the combs, a hot day is going to melt the wax, and the honey is going to leak out. Disastrously.

Go and find someone who can not only get rid of the bees but also determine how large the hive is. I hate to say it, but you might be talking to your home owner's insurance company on how to remove a large portion of home's exterior to get all the comb out.

Last edited by phouka; 11-17-2011 at 02:59 PM.. Reason: Fixed tag
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Old 11-17-2011, 06:21 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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Getting the bees out usually isn't too bad of a job. The problem is the honey.

The bees keep the honey cool, and as a result it doesn't run. When the bees are gone, the honey will warm up and start to run.
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Old 11-17-2011, 08:36 PM
Sam I Am Sam I Am is offline
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We had what we thought were mice running around in the ceiling above our bedroom. They weren't mice - they were bees, studiously working their way down as they expanded their nest.

I came home one day. Walked in the house, closed the front door behind me, went into the bedroom, and only then noticed how DARK it was. There were bees all over the inside of every window, including the one in the front door.

I don't like bees. I really don't like bees.

I snuck out, once I could convince myself to open the door covered with bees, and went and got my husband. He sealed the entrance to the nest from the outside, while the bees were still inside. Then we left the door open, and darkened the windows with garbage bags so they would find their way out the door.

I don't recall if we removed much of the now-exposed nest before fixing the ceiling. That was 15 years ago, and no noticeable harm has come from incomplete nest removal.

brewha's cone idea sounds awesome.
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Old 11-18-2011, 09:54 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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On Billy The Exterminator, Billy has cleaned thousands of bees out of a wall and turned them over to a beekeeper for adoption. Here (video) is the specific episode. He's in Louisiana, somewhere around Shreveport; it might even be worth giving his company a call. You might get it done free if they film you.
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