Thursday, June 27, 2013
The bees were entering the structure of the house through the gap between the wood siding and the stone. Once the bees got in, they found a wide channel between the stone and the interior structure [sill plate, etc.] that provided a wide roadway straight to the spaces between all of the joists along the entire length of the house. The pathways had been enlarged by ivy growing on the house.
From the interior of the house, we had to find out exactly where the hive was. We did a bit of listening in the rooms on this side of the house and narrowed it down to the ceiling area in a basement room.
It did not take a high tech method to find out exactly where the hive was. All I did was feel the ceiling. It was much warmer under the hive. Much warmer. Here's Eric demonstrating so I could snap the pic.
I drew a circle around the warm area on the ceiling. We moved all the furniture out of the room, covered one set of windows and papered shut an open closet to keep the bees out of it. Then we put sheets on the floor to collect debris and made sure that the spaces at the top and bottom of the door were covered and the hallway dark to keep bees out of the rest of the house.
Eric figured out exactly where the joists were and cut out the drywall to expose the hive.
Rumor had it that this was a brand new hive, from a swarm seen near the house two weeks before. We expected a small hive, a bit of comb and some bees.
The bees had filled this section of joist and were already out of space. In another few days, they'd have started on the spaces to either side of the first area.
The comb was brand new and very soft. Full of honey and brood. It was very difficult to handle and band into frames because it fell apart quickly. We did the best we could with me doing the removal from the ladder and Eric doing the banding.
These bees were very defensive. They were not mean beforehand, but once we got going, they were very unhappy. No amount of smoke calmed them down once we started removal.
9 hours later we had defeated the hive, collected the bees, sealed all of the entrances we could find and cleaned up. We had gone through several cans of caulk and Great Stuff.
In addition we took a few dozen stings each, through the protective clothing. It's what bees do. I'd like to think that I'd defend my home and family as persistently as they did.
What we did well:
1. Found the entrance and the hive quickly.
2. Made appropriate cuts to minimize the interior damage to the ceiling of the room.
3. Kept the bees out of the rest of the house.
4. Removed the bees and comb.
5. Found the queen and caught her.
6. Sealed up the entrances outside AND inside.
7. Stayed calm through the whole process.
8. Answered the client's questions, explained how bees work, explained the issues with the structure of the house.
9. Went back the next day to double check that the bees hadn't found another way in and that the holes really were sealed up. Since Eric is doing the construction repair as well [it's what he does for a living] it was extra important to talk about and fix potential problem areas now because he'll be working with the client on other projects over the next few years and we don't want her to have bees again.
What we'd do better next time:
1. Make a better bee vac. DO NOT attempt a removal without a bee vac of some kind. We want one that'll dump them in a hive box with frames so that all we have to do is drop the hive in place when we get home. We'll lose fewer bees and then transferring the bees to a more permanent box at the end of a long day just before dusk will be less exhausting.
2. The Mann Lake style bee jack with hood, like this one provided good coverage and I highly recommend it. There are a few different styles and fabrics. Get one with lots of velcro to cover up holes to the inside of the hood. I only got one bee in my hood all day. The prices are all over the place and many bee outfitters sell them, so shop around. Upset bees will still get you through the suit, but my face and head were protected all day long, even when I put my head up into the joist space to find and caulk the entrance from the inside of the hive when there were still a whole lot of bees in there. The hat and veil like this one that Eric wore were not nearly adequate in this removal and he took a lot of hits to the head, neck and face. I got him a jacket with a hood like mine for Father's Day.
3. Put plastic on the floor first, then sheets. I spilled a lot of honey on the sheets taking that soft comb out, which soaked into the carpet below. We gave the client a discount to clean the carpet because that's something that I could have prevented.
4. Bring 3 times as much caulk and Great Stuff as we think we'll need.
We got the bees relocated at home with a frame of undamaged brood from another hive. They're still here and doing just fine.
It was a very exciting experience.