Victoria Clayton and Richard White, who live in a former bed-and-breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey, found an enormous three foot by 2 foot honeycomb and nearly 30,000 bees in their attic crawl space.
They were noticing an unusual large amount of bees in the their garden, as well as a steady line of bee’s headed for the third-floor laundry vent. After they did some research, they found out that these were honeybees that pollinate food crops.
The couple didn’t want to exterminate the bees since it’s illegal to kill honey bees in New Jersey, so they called Gary Schempp, founder of the insect rescue group Busy Bees NJ. “Some home owners who are not familiar with the bees may think it is best to spray them, but that is the worst thing you can do, and not just because it’s illegal. Once they are sprayed or controlled or damaged in someway then all that nectar, all that honey, all that comb, and all that organic material is left to ferment in the wall. The clean up for that can far exceed the cost of professional removal.”
On Thursday, Schempp and his assistant, John Reed calmed the bees by filling the attic with liquid smoke and removed them with a specially designed vacuum. Along with the 30,000 bees, Schempp said he removed about 25 pounds of honey and nectar on the comb and from under the floorboards of the attic, which unfortunately was unsuitable for consumption because it was cover with dust and home insulation.
“A comb this size and this active could have caused huge problems for this structure,” Schempp said. “It would have continued to get bigger and bigger inside the walls.”
A syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder began to worry scientists six years ago. Entomologists estimated that between 50 and 90 percent of the world’s feral honeybee population had started to disappear. Theories for their disappearance included the effects of decades of urbanization, pesticides, and parasitic mites.
Brought by early colonists, honeybees are a nonnative species that is responsible for pollinating up to a third of U.S. crops. While no precise figure is available, crops dependent on honeybee pollination including apples, peaches, blackberries, cucumbers, almonds, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables and have a total annual value in the tens of billions of dollars, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.