The critter / creature / insect livelihood out in California continues to shock me. I have seen, and as a result, had to take care of things I never imagined. Things one typically only sees in movies, or at zoos! Maybe they all know how crazy this makes me, because I seem to attract a lot of visitors. This past week I was ‘lucky’ enough to have thousands of house guests decide to stay and establish a whole community and pretty much, their own small business in my home. Who am I kidding, why am I trying to paint such a nice picture of this? Over the past week our house was attacked and taken over by hybrid Africanized Honey Killer Bees!
I suspected we had a problem when I noticed a few bees hovering around the overhang of our roof. I called our exterminator, whom I’m on a first name basis with, Andy, and he told me that bees often travel in little swarms looking for suitable places to build new hives. If they leave the next day we’d have nothing to worry about. They actually left that same afternoon so I took that to be their rejection of our place. The next afternoon, however, when walking past my window I was stopped in my tracks by this …
Now, picture me on the phone with the exterminator company.
“I need to speak with Andy immediately!”
“I’m sorry, he’s off for the weekend, how can we help you?”
“I have a SWARM of bees outside my house the size of the street all the way up to my roof!!!”
“Oh, they do that. They’ll do that until the sun goes down, they’re just hot.”
“No, you don’t understand … this is an amount of bees you would only see in a movie!”
“Ya, we get that a lot.”
“Well, you tell Andy that we weren’t sure if we had a problem and now we know WE DEFINITELY HAVE A PROBLEM!!!!!”
My daughter was in a panic whimpering beside me. She thought we’d never be able to leave the house. It was a pretty overwhelming thing to see. The bees eventually subsided and returned to the hive, which was clearly in our roof. Andy eventually came by and let me know that due to the height of our roof and the extent of our problem, we’d have to call in a company specializing in bees. All I could think of was how many of them were already up there, and that they were probably multiplying like crazy. I dropped everything and got a hold of Speedy’s Pest Solutions, who promised to send someone out the next day to assess our problem, give me a quote and set up a plan. In the meantime, I had started to notice dead bees accumulating on our steps.
The next day, Joe from Speedy’s came by. Upon first observing the bees swarming around our roof and then examining the dead ones, he informed me that we were dealing with Africanized Honey Bees, actually calling them Killer Bees (which confirmed for me that I did indeed have bees out of a movie!). The reason we had the dead ones is because the bees were killing each other off for space, but primarily killing off females because there can only be one queen. As soon as he realized how aggressive they were, he decided to stay and get rid of them instantly. He told me we all had to pack up and leave the house right away in case any them came inside through recessed lighting. The danger came from the nature of Killer Bees; if one stings you, they all come and sting you and they do attack on purpose with the intention of taking you down!
Joe called in with the report that the bees were gone, but they had already made a fair amount of honey so he would have to return on another day to get into our roof and scrape it all out. I learned that bees keep the honey at a certain temperature by the constant fluttering of their wings. With all the bees gone, we could easily have melting honey dripping down the inside of our walls.
I sent him up the ladder with my camera to capture a few shots for us. What he discovered was a very old abandoned hive that the bees had immediately moved into, as well as a brand new honeycomb construction they were working on and beginning to fill with honey. He got surprised by a large number of bees who were still inside, having been hidden layers back.
When it was all said and done, Joe and his assistant came inside with a souvenir for us and stayed for a bit of food. We visited for a while and he had plenty of stories to share. I now think that queen bees have it pretty good! A queen has worker bees that do anything she tells them to. They go out in search of a home that will be desirable for her. If they don’t think it will meet her satisfaction they move on. She has a whole clan of drone bees whose sole purpose is to mate with her. After they mate, the drone dies! The down side is that the queen has to kill her female babies who might be in competition with her and once she starts aging the drone bees will help her kill the young, but leaving one surviving female to take over, they then turn and kill the queen!
Joe let me know that the stories of Killer Bees are very real. He has known them to chase someone for a mile. If you should be on the run from a swarm and decide to jump into a pool to escape them, they will actually wait for you! He also told me of a woman who was just driving in her car with the windows down and bees came in attacking her. This ultimately resulted in her death, as did most of the other stories. The venom of these bees is no stronger than a regular bee, but it is difficult to survive the magnitude of venom that comes from thousands of stings.
Although we are all safe, I do feel attacked by them. They fully attacked my pocket book! Getting rid of these bees and the resulting roof work cost us nearly $1,600! I heard we’re lucky we caught them when we did, because Joe’s had people who’s walls have caved in on them because of hives within the structure. If you even suspect you have a problem, call someone right away, because you might be underestimating the possible danger. To finish on a happy note, I did learn that it’s possible to have an exterminator spray the bees with wine, which keeps any honey they’ve made safe and perfectly edible for you, with health benefits to boot!