Protecting Your Real Estate: You Just Can’t Tell Bees to Buzz Off; You Need a Strategy by Colleen Bennett

May 29, 2010
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A peek at the hive that drove Sport out of his doghouse.

A peek at the hive that drove Sport out of his doghouse.

It’s never too late to learn about the birds and the bees.
In my case, I noticed our beagle Sport was no longer retreating to the cozy comfort of his dog house at night. The next morning, walking past a few swarming bees, I ducked my head inside his normally happy home and saw a cone-shaped beehive the size of the Goodyear blimp hanging from the roof.

It took my breath away. It was as if aliens had silently landed and taken over my backyard. They had invaded my beagle’s home. Could mine be next?

After making a few phone calls and hopping on the Internet, I learned you have two options: Do nothing or remove the bees. To bee or not to bee. Each question and decision carries consequences.

By doing nothing, I would be giving Sport his eviction notice because there was no way he was going back inside his doghouse. Also, I heard that if the bees were to leave and take up residence inside the walls of my home, removal would become much more difficult and expensive, possibly involving the removal of wall coverings, the cutting of sheetrock or other finishes and even the dismantling of attics or soffits. Rotting honey and honeycomb can attract rodents and rot and stain walls, as well.

Removing the bees clearly seemed the better option. Because of our proximity to Cal Poly Pomona, I called the University to ask if a student or staff member in the agricultural department would be interested in harvesting the bees. Unfortunately, it was around finals, and no one had the time to come out. Finally, the City of La Verne referred me to Gregg Manston, a fee-based operator and owner of Claremont, Calif.-based Bee Removers (right to the point!). He also is a beekeeper to the stars I subsequently learned. If a scene calls for bees, Manston becomes part bee wrangler and ring master knowing how to make the bees bee-have on cue.

The fact is honey bee colonies should never be exterminated unless beehive removal is impossible; their interest in humans is generally minimal and they play a truly vital role in our habitat. Beekeepers remove and relocate honey bees and honeycomb in order to transport and sustain the bee colony.

Bee wrangler Manston and his courageous assistant.

Bee wrangler Manston and his courageous assistant.

Manston came out about 8:30 a.m. It’s better to strike in the morning when the bees are generally less active. After verifying that the bees were indeed honeybees, Manston’s assistant donned a long sleeve shirt, boots, bee veil and thick, long-sleeved rubber gloves. He also carried a large six-gallon bucket and a patented mixture of pine needles.

“The smoke from the pine needles tends to mellow out the bees and make them less aggressive,” Manston told me, which seemed like a good strategy especially after also informing me that all honeybees in Southern California are now Africanized. “When bees smell smoke, they think fire and they gorge themselves on honey, which puts them in a semi-comatose state for 10 or 15 minutes.”

That was more than enough time for Manston’s assistant to  scrape the hive from the ceiling and put it in a bucket – an engineering marvel of wax demolished in just seconds.

Still dodging a few swarming bees, Manston estimated the hive was about one or two months’ old, weighed about 30 pounds and contained about 30,000 to 40,000 bees. The captured bees he said would first be transported to Chino before being transferred to California’s Central Valley.
He told me to keep Sport inside for the remainder of the day and to sand the ceiling of the dog house, as well as clean the entire structure to wash away any scent that could attract another colony of bees to the same location.

The actual time for the bee removal was no more than five minutes. Because of the size of the hive, which Manston said was larger than normal, I was charged $165. Removal for a normal sized-hive is $145, he said.

At first, paying the higher price stung a little bit, considering a hive of either size still would have fit in the one bucket, but the menace to Sport was gone. There are workers to pay, transportation costs, insurance costs. It seemed a fair price.

The bees were mostly gone, except about 10% of the hive’s population that had been in the field foraging for pollen. Finding a missing hive upon their return, they could strike out in search of other hives.

For now, the buzz and excitement of having the bees as uninvited guests is over. I know Sport will sleep better. As for me, I learned about a lot about the bees, if not the birds, including some facts I share below:

Did you know:

• Bees are robust-bodied and very hairy compared with wasps.

• Africanized honey bees come from a subspecies of honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata) released accidentally in Brazil in 1957. They were imported from South Africa by a researcher who was attempting to produce a variety of honey bee better adapted to the tropics than the European honey bee.

• Wasps are predators, feeding insects and other arthropods to their young, which develop in the nest. Bees feed only on nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) from flowers. Honey bees sometimes visit trash cans and soft-drink containers to feed on sugary foods.

On the way to the truck and a new life in California's farm belt.

On the way to the truck and a new life in California's farm belt.

• Wasps and bees sting to defend themselves or their colony. Stinging involves the injection of a protein venom that causes pain and other reactions. Wasps and bumble bees can sting more than once because they are able to pull out their stinger without injury to themselves. If you are stung by a wasp or bumble bee, the stinger is not left in your skin. Honey bees have barbs on their stinger which remain hooked in the skin. The stinger, which is connected to the digestive system of the bee, is torn out of the abdomen as the bee attempts to fly away. As a result, the bee soon dies.

If you are stung by a honey bee, scratch out the stinger (with its attached venom gland) with your fingernail as soon as possible. Do not try to pull out the stinger between two fingers. Doing so only forces more venom into your skin, causing greater irritation.
• The life of all honeybees starts as an egg, about the size of a comma.
• Worker (female) bees gather pollen which they stick to their back legs, to carry back to the hive where it is used as food. Pollen from the stamens of one flower, stick to their bodies, and is carried to another flower where it rubs off onto the pistil, resulting in cross pollination. Mankind’s food supply depends greatly on crop pollination by honeybees.
• Nectar is sucked up through the proboscis, mixed with enzymes in the stomach, and carried back to the hive, where it is stored in wax cells and evaporated into honey.

• Worker bees must maintain the hive’s brood chamber at 94 degrees F to incubate the eggs. If it is too hot, they collect water and deposit it around the hive, then fan air through with their wings causing cooling by evaporation. If it is too cold, they cluster together to generate body heat.
• Male bees are called drones. They emerge in 24 days, larger than the female workers. They have large eyes and no stinger. They lead a life of leisure, doing no work while being fed by the workers. Their sole purpose is to mate with a queen from any hive, thereby transferring the genetic traits of their mother. They die upon mating, or are expelled from the hive as winter approaches.
• A queen can live for six or seven years while a worker bee may live only six to eight weeks.
• When 10 days’ old, a new queen takes a high maiden flight, pursued by drones from nearby hives. In about 13 minutes, she mates with seven or more of them, storing their sperm for the rest of her life.
• The queen lays about 1,200 eggs per day, about 200,000 per season. This is necessary since worker bees only live a short time (about six to eight weeks) in the summer; and a colony needs to have 40,000 to 50,000 bees at its peak. She is cared for by the worker bees. This queen has been marked with a red dot for easy identification.
• All honey (except maybe Tupelo honey) eventually crystallizes. Some does this sooner and some later. Some will crystallize within a month; some will take a year or so. It is still edible and can be liquefied by heating it to about 100 degrees or so. Crystallized honey can be eaten as is also, or crushed to make creamed honey or feed to the bees for winter stores.


By Colleen Bennett, Realtor, Keller Williams

Reported May 29, 2010

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