Audree Steinberg reports:
On July 7 a photojournalist discovered approximately 50,000 bees living in the walls of his Los Angeles home, and he wasn’t even scared.
Spending little time at home because of work, Larry Chen, 27, initially didn’t notice the bees. According to the hired beekeeper, the hive was an estimated six to eights months old.
However, one month ago, Chen began noticing bees buzzing in and out of his window, and he decided to investigate. According to Chen, the bees only came out during a 30-minute window in the day.
“I’m not really terrified of the bees… I just remained calm, and I figured they wouldn’t bother me too much… I got stung once, but I was more curious about how big the hive actually was. I figured it was just a small clump of 1,000 or so,” Chen said.
After his initial investigation, he spent a month on the road, traveling for work. When he returned, Chen found time to call a professional to assess the situation. He explained that he recently saw a documentary about the endangerment of bees, so he wanted to save—not exterminate—them.
He found a man on Craigslist, who goes by the name Mike Bee, who would safely remove the bees. He is a member of the rescue organization Backwards Beekeepers, a group that works with HoneyLove.org in order to educate the public about bees.
“My policy is to relocate, not exterminate,” the beekeeper explained.
It took Mike Bee and his wife five hours to remove the bees from the wall. While Chen was not stung during the removal process, Mike Bee was stung four times.
The bees entered through a ventilation pipe that airs out the attic and an area near a window, according to Mike Bee. Although the pipes were lined with a wire mesh, the squares were big enough for bees to fit through. Since the area was a dark, protective shelter and featured a convenient entry point, the space was very accommodating to a beehive.
First, the beekeeper located the bees and cut the drywall. Then he burned pine needles, creating a smoke that would calm the bees. Afterwards, he began vacuuming the bees in a custom-made device, so that the comb could be visible. Subsequently, he removed the queen and cut out the comb, placing it in a box with the bees.
After removing the bees, he scraped off any remnants of wax from the honeycombs and cleaned the area of the hive. He then stapled screening mesh over the ventilated pipes in order to deter a new swarm from finding the same spot.
The bees filled two boxes that fit 20,000 bees each, but there were still many strays. The beekeeper explained that the bees would be returned to the city after he completes a process called an orientation flight.
“It’s good we caught it at this time because it could have been a lot bigger,” Chen said.