NEWS

Hive of 50,000 honeybees removed from Cambridge, Ont., home

06/29/2015 04:23 EDT | Updated 06/29/2016 05:59 EDT
Beekeeper Dave Schuit is ripping apart drywall with a hammer and tearing out fibreglass insulation, taking apart a living room wall to gain access to a hive of about 50,000 honeybees.

Outside, a dark smear of honey is dripping from the hive down the brick wall of Louise and Michael Dawe's home in Cambridge, Ont.

Schuit, who owns Saugeen Country Honey in Elmwood, Ont., is trying to determine whether he can remove the bees from inside the house, or if he has to tear open an outside wall. 

The Dawes called on Schuit to take the honeybees out of the house alive, after the bees returned following a previous effort by an exterminator.

Step 1: Smoke 'em and spray 'em

Schuit and five of his seven children are on hand to deal with the hive. Before opening the wall inside, Schuit has one of his children smoke the bees from the outside with a handheld smoker. The smoke calms the bees and lets Schuit get closer.

Inside, he gets through the drywall and spies a brood comb, a piece of honeycomb that holds bee eggs 

"The strategy is to try to take the bees out in a healthy manner. We're trying to save the hive, save the queen and find it a new home out of this home," says Schuit. He sprays the bees with liquid syrup, which he says causes the bees to lick and groom each other. But he realizes that he'll have to go outside to get better access to the bees and to cut away the honeycomb. 

Step 2: Get at the hive

Outside, Schuit removes the soffit under the eaves to get access to the hive. As he pulls away the soffit, rows of the honeycomb are visible in the eaves.

According to Louise Dawe, the bees have been around for a while, though they leave her and her husband alone. 

"About three years ago I happened to walk around the house and see all these bees swarm around the top corner," said Dawe. At the time she couldn't get anyone to take the bees away alive, so she called an exterminator. She thought that all the bees were killed and that the area had been sealed off, but the bees came back.

Dawe wanted to save the bees and tracked down Schuit after seeing an article about him taking a hive out of a Kitchener house.

Step 3: Remove honeycomb

"One bee produces one tenth of a teaspoon over six weeks," says Schuit about honey production. 

He pulls two buckets of honeycomb out of the eaves and passes them down the ladder to his daughter, who passes the bucket to one of her brothers. The family has brought along plenty of buckets to take down the rest of the honeycomb.

Schuit will save as much of the hive as he can and bring it back to his farm in Elmwood. He says he may have to replace the queen, but the hive is healthy and he wants the bees to produce honey. 

"It's just amazing, the honey and the honeycombs and the thousands of bees, and I'm so happy I have a professional looking after this," says Dawe as she watches the hive come out. "How they're handling the bees and moving them to a new hive, I'm glad they could save them." 

Step 4: Seal up the wall

Dawe says that after Schuit finishes, her contractor will come back to repair the house. He'll have to fix a section of drywall and insulation inside, and a section under the eaves outside where Schuit removed the soffit and part of a decorative beam to reach the hive.

Schuit says that getting the bees out alive along with their honeycomb is more effective than exterminating them. Otherwise, moths will come in and eat the wax that holds the honey in place. The honey can drip on to wiring and cause fires, he says.

It's leaking honey that left the dark stain on the bricks of Louise Dawe's home

"I tried to put my finger on the brick, but it didn't have any taste," she says of the honey stain.

She'll have to wait for a jar of the real thing. 

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