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A Pinehurst couple left their $1.5 million home for nine months, and recently returned to find it dripping in liquid gold. You see that dark spot on the brick wall? That’s honey.
On a regular Tuesday, I was asked if I wanted to accompany a newspaper reporter to a $1.5 million home with a bee infestation. Obviously, for the sheer weird factor, I said yes. I wasn’t sure what I was walking into, so I just went. In my open-toed wedges.
I’ve never been stung and could only hope today wouldn’t be the day.
Turns out, instead of calling an exterminator, Lenny and Joy Glidewell decided to call a local beekeeper, because they understood how important bees are to the environment — and let us go along on the quest to find the queen. Hive five to them.
Local beekeeper Mary Garrison, from Will-a-Bee Market, and Katherine Canada, from Reverie Hill Farm, undertook the bee mission. They came prepared with a smoker, bee boxes, suits, and a can-do attitude.
Upon arriving, we could immediately see the bees swarming out of a corner of the roof, at least 16 feet in the air. After attempting to smoke the bees out from outside and pry off pieces of the roof line, Mary decided we had to get to them from the storage room crawlspace.
An average hive typically has around 50,000 bees, but one this size? Mary and Katherine guessed a minimum of 75,000. When we got into the crawlspace it was surreal.
We were inside the hive.
It didn’t look like much at first, but it went deep into the rafters. You could see the fresh, waxy, honeycomb, which is white in color before it begins being filled with honey. I’ve never seen so many bees at once. It was simultaneously cool, gross, and terrifying — like watching a true crime documentary. The bees were very calm at first, unlike the ones buzzing outside. I managed to get super close to the colony for some photos.
Mary began scooping out honeycombs and looking for the queen bee. FYI: When it comes to a beehive, you have to remove the queen for the other bees to follow. Even if you remove most of the bees, without removing the queen, the colony will just continue to multiply.
Did we mention we weren’t wearing a bee suit?
The bees slowly got more active and louder. The smell of honey rolled through the storage space like fog, and the roar of the bees grew louder like someone was slowly turning the volume dial.
In the hours we spent in this house, bees landed all over me and my coworker. We all got sticky. Every phone flashlight was in use until the owner found a flashlight. As the homeowners yelled “Have you found the queen yet?” every few minutes and insisted on flicking bees off of us, I fought to remain calm. Bees, if you didn’t know, can quite literally smell fear. That’s why “smoking out bees” is a thing because it masks odors and throws off pheromones.
Finding the queen is a lot harder than I anticipated. The queen is a much larger bee who will be protected at all costs by the worker bees, making the extraction that much more difficult.
It wasn’t until I went outside for a breather that I realized my adrenaline had been going full steam for the past four hours — and I wasn’t even the one handling bees. I felt like I had done a high-intensity, full-body workout.
Mary and Katherine emerged sticky and covered in honey. The bad news? We ended the day without finding the queen bee. The good news? My coworker and I only got stung once between the two of us. Unfortunately for her, the sting was in the dead center of her forehead.
I learned a lot about bees: there are Drones, male bees that can’t sting, which look somewhat like a big fly. Worker bees, who gather pollen and make the honey are, of course, all female. The queen has two jobs: to be in charge and have bee babies.
I also learned what honey tastes like directly from the comb — light, floral, and completely pure. It tasted even sweeter knowing the efforts Mary and Katherine went through to remove the honeycomb.
Mary has been going back the last few days because she refuses to give up her search for the queen. She’s removed thousands of bees already, but she doesn’t want it to be for nothing.
Hopefully, we’ll get a text soon saying the mission was a success. I’ve gotten mildly obsessed with bees in the last few days and constantly check to see if there’s been any update in finding the rightful owner of the throne. For now, long live the queen.