Monday, August 14, 2006

Bee Battle Begins

I launched the first attack of my War with the Bees yesterday. We have a very well established honeybee hive in our eastern attic wall. The little buggers come and go through a hole between the cedar shingle siding between and below the attic windows.

It's been very easy to procrastinate with this project. When you're thinking of dealing with a big hive in the wall filled with, who knows, up to 100,000 bees, it's easy to find other things to work on first.

At first we thought it'd be great to get rid of the bees while keeping them alive, and maybe give them to a local beekeeper. Bees are awesome, after all, and flowers and crops need them, and they make honey and all that. I'd seen an episode of Dirty Jobs that showed a professional bee man cutting a huge section out of the siding on a church to remove a honeybee hive. The idea of someone cutting a huge section out of my outside wall didn't thrill me however.

Further research though, indicated that people who keep bees buy their queens for new hives or gather up new clumps of bees when they "swarm", when a new queen sets off with a bunch of workers in search of a new home. Bees can be trapped by placing a wire cone over the entrance of the hive so they can't figure out how to get back in, and then placing a replacement hive near the entrance so they immigrate to the new home. Great, but it takes something like two or three months, requires attaching the new hive near the current one, and in the end, you still have to dig into the wall to remove the hive and the old queen and old bees that don't leave the hive. Yeah, I don't think so.

So, unfortunately, it appeared extermination was the way to go. We thought about hiring an exterminator, but I, in a moment of what may prove in the long run to be bad judgment, decided that this would be a fun D.I.Y. project.

A trip to a couple hardware stores and a fabric store netted me a set of white coveralls (apparently bees aren't as ornery on light colored clothing), some PVC gloves both for sting protection and for handling insecticide, some wedding veil fabric for my head, a big roll of duct tape (always handy), some wire screen, a long thin tube, and a carton of Sevin-5 Dust which contains Carbaryl. I have no idea what that stuff is but it's apparently very bad for bees. There are cautions on the carton about accidentally getting it near bees when trying to kill other insects because it'll kill them so well. Sounds perfect!

I read that the poison dust could be placed on the bee entrance, but if the hive was far from the entrance, it might take a long time and might require many applications. The recommended way was to access the hive from inside and put the dust directly into the hive. So, okay, here we go.

I donned the bee outfit, stretched the veil material over a bike helmet to keep the veil from touching my face, and headed into the attic. Let me tell you, by the way, that wearing sealed coveralls and rubber gloves in an 85 degree attic is a great way to loose some water weight. I was soaked in about five minutes.

I located the studs between the attic windows, and drilled a small hole through the drywall to see what I could see. Nothing. I poked at it with a screwdriver. Something moved then rebounded. Ah yes, the paper cover over fiberglass insulation.

Feeling more confident that the hive was on the other side of the insulation, I drilled some bigger holes to verify, then cut a big square of drywall away, from the middle of one stud to the middle of the next one.

At this point, I took my big square of screen material, and stapled it tightly along the bottom beam. If I exposed the hive, I would then flip up the screen and quickly staple it shut, hopefully before too many bees got out. I picked at the insulation, moving it carefully and slowly. Through a dark space on the right, I aimed a flashlight. The light beam fell upon the inside of the outer wood wall, and it was teeming with bees. Deep breath... I couldn't see the hive itself, but I'd certainly gained access to a major thoroughfare.

I stapled up the rest of the screen, then broke open a hole just big enough for my tube. I threaded the tube through the hole and back toward where I'd seen the bees. They were not happy with the intrusion. A couple bees popped out of the passage and circled the tube on their side of the screen nervously.

I carefully shook some of the dust poison into an open container, then tamped my end of the tube into it several times, slowly packing a nice dose of the powder into it. I then put the hose end into the head of an old bike pump - it fit nice and tight - and gave a couple pumps. I couldn't see where it went, but the tube emptied, and the bees were definitely not too pleased.

I checked this morning and the inside of the screen had several bees on it. About half were dead and some others didn't look very healthy. On my way to work, I glanced up to the outside wall and there was zero activity. It's probably because it was early morning and still cool, but it'd be nice to think that it was already having an effect. I'll apply several more doses over the next week or so, and if I continue to see no outside activity, or when I dare, I'll open up the screen a bit more and pull away some more of the insulation to see if I can get a glimpse of the hive itself.

Once (if?) I get all the bees killed off, it's going to be a big, nasty job removing the actual hive. Without bees to keep the honey cool, it can melt and stain woodwork throughout the wall. It can also attract other bees, honey moths, mice, and other critters, so it's got to go, and it's got to go relatively soon after the bees are gone. I understand the smell of many thousands of bees decomposing in the wall is none to pleasant as well.

It will be interesting to see if I can follow through with this project until the end, or if I bag it at some point and call in the pros.


At 6:09 PM, Blogger susan said...

I am interested in your hive retrieval results.

We have one that needs to be removed from our garages eves.

Dallas, Tx.

At 10:33 AM, Blogger GG Connecticut Homeowner said...

I am going to go with the "no kill" route since these beautiful creatures need to be saves and not exterminated.

I have a similar issue that I will try to deal with in a natural way. I had heard that clove oil gets the bees to move out of the hive when it is applied close to the area.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger SJ said...

I have a whole bee hive of 1000 + bees in my attic. How do I handle that?

At 8:30 PM, Blogger SJ said...

I have a whole bee hive of 1000+ bees inside my attic. How would I handle such a problem?

At 10:30 PM, Blogger Judy said...

I had mine removed by a bee keeper and he just vacuumed them up. It took less than an hour for everything. No days..


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