Beekeeper Dave Schuit outside a Varney home on Friday July 27, 2012 where up to 180,000 honey bees and untold numbers of yellow jacket wasps have taken up residence in. Schuit will attempt to remove the bees on Monday July 30, 2012.
Credits: WILLY WATERTON/QMI AGENCY
OWEN SOUND, ON -- A Varney, ON, woman didn't realize the extent her little house has been taken over by bees until cracks appeared in the ceiling and honey began to drip about two weeks ago.
"We don't hear them buzzing or anything. It's just the crack in the ceiling. Like you're standing in the kitchen and you get honey dripped down your hair. It's not pleasant," Loretta Yates said Saturday as she and her husband Kevin prepared to rid their house of the unwanted pests.
"Until we'd seen the massive honey dripping and stuff, I didn't know what we were really dealing with was as big a problem as it's turned out to be," Yates said.
The bees are between the main-floor ceiling and the floor of the upper level over the kitchen and living room. Both ceilings have cracked and are leaking honey.
Upon closer inspection, the kitchen light cover was half filled with honey, she said. An Elmwood, Ont., beekeeper who was called in to investigate figures Yates could have 2,000 pounds of honey up there.
She has two colonies of up to 180,000 honey bees and a nest of nasty yellow jacket wasps, he believes.
The Yates live with their 22-month-old son, Justin, in a 1 1/2-storey cement block house she bought five years ago along Highway 6 in Varney, in Grey County.
Her neighbour runs a garage and the bees are bothering customers there. The bees may have been living there for four years, she said.
Yates isn't sleeping well now. She paces the house at night, concerned about the flickering lights, fearful the ceiling might collapse and the bees could swarm inside.
Monday morning beekeeper David Schuit and his helpers will pull down the ceiling in the kitchen and living room, and remove the honey which he hopes can be saved.
He'll clear out the bees and their honeycomb, and attempt to find both queen bees and put each in a wooden hive box which he'll place inside the house.
Each colony is separated by a partition in the cavity above the ceiling. He mustn't disturb that because otherwise the bees won't get along.
"If the queen leaves the hive, the whole hive goes with her. They don't want to stay in the hive without her," Schuit said. "It's really amazing. Bees are fascinating."
He said bees have taught him how to behave to get the job done without causing his stomach to churn with dread.
"Bees are very friendly once you learn how to work with them, he said, adding, "They're also "very protective of each other."
He'll go after the yellow jackets last. They're more aggressive and can sting about eight times in one day and still survive. He doesn't intend to spare them -- he'll spray an insecticide.
"They're very unruly," he said.
Schuit runs a family business called Saugeen Country Honey, south of Elmwood. He has about 1,000 to 1,200 hives and sells various kinds of honey and related products at his store, plus at the Keady Market and at one in St. Jacobs, Ont.
"We're really grateful for him and his help, with Saugeen Country, ‘cause I don't know what we would do otherwise," Loretta Yates said. "This is overwhelming and a big project. I'm still hardly believing it. It seems like a dream; a terrifying dream."
Initially, a pest control expert told her he could dust the bees to kill them, but that would leave the honey, which would just attract more bees.
A week ago last Tuesday Yates got an eyeful when she looked outside and saw what Schuit believes was likely a third honey bee colony.
"It was another swarm of bees coming, like another hive of bees coming here, but the house was already full. So they couldn't actually get access into the house, so they just swarmed on the outside," she said.
"And it was just black. You'd hardly believe it was bees. It was just like a blanket," she said.
Yates can't help but joke a little about her bee problem.
She told a co-worker at Saugeen Villa nursing home in Hanover, Ont., where Yates works part-time, "I have honey in my house. I must be the queen bee."
Someone called her predicament "a real sweet mess."
There's nothing funny about the damage and the cost to put it right and her insurance company says she's not covered.
"They've chewed right through the wall, like on the outside top gable end," Yates said, incredulous the insurance wouldn't come through for her.
Since her husband is on the Ontario Disability Support Program, he can access $1,500 to help remove the bees. But the job to do that and repair the house is expected to cost more than double that.