A couple from Florida, United States, recently said goodbye to some uninvited guests: a colony of up to 41 a thousand bees that invaded the shower wall of their house.
The size of the colony astonished even Elisha Bixler, a professional beekeeper the couple —Stefanie and Dan Graham, from St. Petersburg, Florida— called in to solve the problem for them.
“There was honey everywhere: on the walls, on the floor, on my shoes, on the doorknobs,” said Bixler, interviewed on Wednesday (15). “We had to tear off the entire wall covering to remove the entire comb.”
She estimated that there were about 80 a thousand bees and 45 kg of honey when he removed the 2.1 meter high hive in early November, after tearing off the bathroom tiles. The discovery was first reported by the TV channel FOX 13, from Tampa Bay.
Bixler, from 28 years old, she owns the apiary How’s Your Day 800Honey. She said she had to cover everything with plastic sheeting to try to contain the snot.
Aware that something out of the ordinary was happening, the Grahams went to Bixler in October. It was not the first contact the family had had with bees in their beach house, which is made of wood, has three floors and is supported on stilts.
Two to three years ago, said Stefanie Graham on Wednesday (13), her husband ripped the tiles off the wall of the same bathroom and removed a gigantic hive that was there. Since then, they had been working on the roof. Graham said that the works left some openings, which ended up serving as a gateway for the bees to return.
The couple, who have two children and two dogs of the Great Dane breed, learned to live with their “guests”, even though we’ve been stung a few times.
“We both love nature and we love bees,” Stefanie said. “We thought, ‘We’ll leave you alone, and you leave us alone too.’ They were nice bees. So we said, ‘Okay, you can live in our bathroom.'”
But cohabitation it had to end when the family decided to renovate the bathroom, said Stefanie, who is 41 years old and is an English teacher in secondary school, as well as a part-time real estate agent .
Bixler said she is more used to removing hives from roofs, sheds or trees.
“It was the first time I took a hive from a bathroom”, she she said.
When she arrived at the couple’s house on November 2nd, she took out her thermal detector, which measures heat, and pointed it at the shower wall. The device indicated that the temperature was at 35 degrees centigrade, typical for a beehive.
“As soon as I saw where the bees were, I started to ripping the tiles off, and a massive six-foot-tall hive appeared. It was mostly honey,” she said.
Bixler advised the couple to keep their distance while she removed the bees, a process which took him more than five hours and cost US$ 500 (about R$ 4.500), an amount not covered by the Graham’s insurance.
But, Bixler said, Stephanie “went into the bathroom when work was about halfway through, to take a look.”
Stephanie said her family wasn’t afraid. “But I know a lot of people who would have been scared,” he commented.
Bixler, who has been a professional beekeeper for three years, said she initially wore only a veil to protect herself from the bees. But after receiving several stings, she donned a protective suit that included gloves and boots.
Searching the bees, she ended up spotting the queen bee, whose abdomen was twice the size of the common bee’s. She placed the queen in a protective cage and placed the cage inside a box with the other bees.
“This causes all the bees to enter the box to be with the queen,” said the beekeeper. “The queen wants to go back to that wall. She thinks that place is her home.”
Bixler used a special vacuum to extract some stray bees from the hive.
Robert Page Jr., professor emeritus of entomology at the University of California at Davis, said Wednesday that odors from the previous bee colony must have attracted the young bees to the shower wall.
Author of book “The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies” (The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment environment, from landscapes to societies), Page said that waiting before calling a professional to remove bees from a colony has serious disadvantages. He said that bees can damage laminated plaster walls and that honey can ferment, causing odors that can attract ants.
“We like honey bees, but not when they’re on the wall at home” , said the professor.
Bixler kept much of the honey and said he used it to feed the bees he rescued and keeps in his small farm in St. Petersburg. The Grahams kept some for themselves.
“I said they had the option of simply chewing the comb. Or they could pass the honey through a sieve,” said the beekeeper.
She said that she usually takes care of the bees she rescues, until they regain their normal health, and then redistributes them to other apiaries.
Stephanie Graham said she has read many historical accounts about people who they talk to bees about important facts in their lives, in a ritual known as “reporting to the bees”. He said that she also started talking to the bees and that she did so when her “guests” left.
“I said goodbye to the bees. I told them they were going to get a new house.”
Translation by ClaraAllain.