When Natalie Knight-Hale’s family moved into their new rental home on Lakewood Drive, the moving crew told her there was something she should check out. On the wall outside the garage was a cluster of honeybees, and inside the faint hum of buzzing from the walls.
“I had just taken a continuing education class on pests and knew they were kind of endangered,” Knight-Hale said. She called her real-estate agent, who contacted the Troup County Association of Beekeepers.
Association president Terry Williamson and his wife, association secretary Alicia Williamson, came out Wednesday to uncover and extract the honeybees from inside the garage wall. What they found was a honeycomb more than three feet wide embedded behind the wall’s studs.
“This is the biggest we’ve ever seen in a wall,” Alicia Williamson said. “… They ate through the aluminum (covering of the insulation). They have three stomachs, but they don’t actually eat, they just chew and spit out.”
Although they pulled piles of honeycomb from the wall, Alicia Williamson said the honey is not edible. It contains pieces of the fiberglass insulation and other debris from inside the wall that the bees have gathered.
The Williamsons use a low-powered vacuum with special attachments to gather the bees without harming them and take the insects back to their bee farm. Once they find the queen, they can get the rest of the bees to come willingly, although they still were searching for the yellow-and-black monarch Wednesday afternoon.
Alicia Williamson said honeybees are declining in number, so preserving them is important. Also, if an exterminator comes in to kill all the bees, the honeycomb and bee carcasses will stay in the wall, which can begin to decompose and smell.
A single queen bee also can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day, which then are sealed by wax in the honeycomb, protecting them from poison. When those bees reach maturity in a couple weeks, the hive will be revived.
Hale-Knight is just happy to see the insects go, but was struck with how massive the infestation was when the Williamsons began to uncover the hive.
“It was really amazing,” she said. “It was just oozing honey, and the amount of bees – I couldn’t believe that.”