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Bee infestations need professional help

Posted: July 29, 2012 - 12:18am
Bill Owens vacuums bees from a honeycomb that he removed from St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Owens removed as many as 50,000 bees from the church.  Special Photo
Special Photo
Bill Owens vacuums bees from a honeycomb that he removed from St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Owens removed as many as 50,000 bees from the church.

Known for their sweet reward, honeybees can often present a sticky problem.

Take, for instance, the recent honeybee infestation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Augusta. A swarm of as many as 50,000 honey bees had made a hive near the church’s roof. It took master beekeeper Bill Owens the better part of a morning to remove them.

“He is just a cool guy and made it look so easy,” said Deborah Sasser, a local beekeeper and the owner of Sasserfrass Hill Bee Farm in Augusta. “He had a 40-foot ladder and had to extend it to full length to reach the hive.”

Owens, the owner of Georgia Bee Removal in Monroe, vacuumed the bees out of the hive, which was estimated to have been in the roofline for more than three years. The eggs were given to a local beekeeper, and the bees were taken back to Monroe where they were put in waiting hives. Owens gave the honey collected from the hive to the church.

For some, dealing with an infestation of honeybees is really no bother at all. Sasser said the location and the severity of the swarm is really what makes the difference in whether professional help is needed.

“A lot of people don’t want any bees near their home,” she said. “Some people are OK with them, and others see it as a problem only when the honey starts dripping.”

Removing the bees is one matter; restoring the area where they built their hive is another.

“After the bees are gotten out, you have to fix it so they don’t come back,” said Sasser. “You’re still going to leave little traces of honey behind no matter how hard you try.”

While Sasser said as many as 50,000 bees were removed from St. Paul’s, she said some homeowners can see even bigger hives.

When bees swarm, they send out scout bees, which look for a dry area with no ants in which they can build a hive.

After the scout bees find a place to build a new hive, half of the colony follows the old queen and makes a new home. The remaining half of the colony stays behind and takes on a new queen bee.

“If people have bees in their house, they need to call a beekeeper,” said Sasser. “They will have to have someone remove the bees and then have a carpenter fix the area that had to be removed.”

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