Sunday, April 15, 2007

The swarm moves on

This was the week of biology lessons in our chicken room. That room as been home to lots of wildlife, from the human to the non-human variety. First the chickens lived there. Then a hive of bees moved into the walls. This week we finally got the bees removed--and discovered the walls had become home to carpenter ants and these disgusting beetles that look like ticks, except when they're in the larval stage and look like maggots--blech!

Thanks to Georgetown House who provided a tip about finding someone to take our bees alive! Chris, my husband, found Cindy Bee, a woman who has been ridding homes of bees for 11 years! She came out on Thursday and took ours away--and let me watch, take pictures and learn about the process. She doesn't need to worry that I'm planning to horn in on her business. It looks scary as hell!

The first photo shows the outside wall of the chicken room. This is all we could see of the bee hive until Cindy exposed it all. We could occasionally see the swarm of bees surrounding the hole--that's how we knew what had done the damage. That's honey dripping down the wall. We could also feel a hot spot created by the movement of the bees on the inside wall.

Anyway, Cindy donned her protective gear--net bee hat, long sleeves, gloves, etc. And headed inside. She said she'd come get me when it was safe to come in--she didn't recommend being there when she cut the hole through the drywall. That part tends to upset the bees, and nobody wants to be around upset bees! Especially when they don't have a net bee hat!

In a little while she came and got me. She had cut a hole about 1 foot wide and 3 feet long--it fit just between the studs in the wall, where the morons who built the garage and chicken room had forgotten or neglected or thought they were playing some great joke or maybe they just wanted to one day have bees living in the wall, anyway, they didn't put any insulation--which Cindy says bees hate--in between that one pair of studs. (See the second photo, all that black is very agitated bees.)

Cindy seemed a little disappointed by the hive. It was black, which indicates old comb, with no white new comb around it at all. This means an unhealthy hive. Because our hive was unhealthy, she estimated we only had 10,000-12,000 bees! Which sounded like a right healthy number of bees to me. But, if the hive had been healthy, we'd have had 30,000-40,000 bees! Who knows, they might have completely destroyed the chicken room! So, I was happy with 10,000-12,000!

I took pictures, looked at the bees, got to wear the bee hat--not a good look for me. Then she suggested I go away again while she vacuumed them up. She uses an actual vacuum cleaner, but sucks the bees into a five-gallon paint bucket instead of into the cleaner bag. I heard the vacuum cleaner running for quite a while. Then it stopped. A while later she came to get me again.

She had cut the comb loose from the wall and wanted to show me what she found. She had been afraid there would be no queen, given how unhealthy the whole mess looked, but she found bee eggs in some of the comb. Just looked to me like dirt pressed into the holes in the comb, but she said there were eggs in there. And since she seemed to know what she was talking about, I believed her. So, if there were eggs, there had to be a queen. But she couldn't find it. Then she showed me another piece of comb that had bright yellow in the holes--pollen! Finally, I got to see the real purpose for all that yellow crap that covers our world here in north Atlanta for a month in the spring. (Picture 3 shows Cindy Bee and the baby bees--that's the "beach house" in the background. The chicken room is over the detached garage.)

She also pointed out the problem that the bees were fighting--the disgusting tick-like beetles. A whole pile of white maggoty-looking things crawled around the comb and a couple of little black beetles could be seen. They're parasites, living off the bees. She said usually the bees can take 'em, but we seemed to have a docile, hospitable swarm and they'd welcomed the beetles in. Beetles, being beetles, promptly took over. Then she told me the beetles were the worst problem. We went back inside and looked at the wall where she had cut the comb away. Little teeny holes showed through the siding, letting in pinpricks of light. "Carpenter ants," Cindy said. They're eating the chicken room.

So, 3 and a half hours and several hundred dollars later, we no longer have bees (Cindy even found the queen, crawling around on the floor, which she said they never do. I figure the queen got sick of the carpenter ants or the baby bees always wanting something from her.) Now we have carpenter ants and a hole in the newly finished drywall. ("She'll get the bees out through the siding," Chris said, as we hung, taped, mudded and sanded new drywall just two weeks ago.)

But, really, what kind of remodelers would we be if one project didn't begat several others? Better get back to work!


Poppy said...

Very interesting post. I've never seen anything like that mess you had on your hands.

By the way...I found your blog via I'm an avid reader over there even though I have no old house to renovate.

Thanks for sharing and best of luck with the beetles, carpenter ants and any other bugs you encounter!

BeachBunny said...


I really like houseblogs, too. Lots of interesting things going on out there!

I hope not to run into anymore bugs--yuck!

Georgetown House said...

My goodness, what an adventure!! And I'm sorry about the carpenter ants - not a fun problem to deal with, even less so than bees. Ugh!

Now if I could only figure out how to make sure that we don't get any wasps in here this year. I've already seen one, but we just have NO idea how they're getting in.