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Colony of bees make home in house wall

| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 1:54 a.m.

There's nothing like home sweet home -- except when some of that sweetness is because it's dripping with honey and swarming with bees.

When Jessica and Richard Clark moved into their Poplar Street home in December, they had no idea they were sharing their nest with a whole colony of bees.

But once the early spring weather broke, they soon discovered a hive of activity just outside their door.

Jessica Clark said they noticed the honeybees flying in and out from an exterior wall along the side of the house.

The Clarks have two children, 4-year-old Peyton and 8-month-old Tristan. A brand new sandbox sat unused in the family's yard last week as two Worthington beekeepers cut into the siding of the Clarks' home to remove the bees.

No one in the family had been stung -- except for Jessica, who was stung one time on the forehead while the beekeepers extracted the hive.

Dan Lynch and Wes Bearfield, self-described hobbyist beekeepers, suited up in white veiled hats and worked together to remove 10 layers of wax comb from between the exposed floor joists.

"We have two boxes full of bees, brood and honey," said Lynch.

Even though the air swarmed with bees -- Lynch guessed between 40,000 and 50,000 -- the bees were not aggressive.

Call a beekeeper

Lynch said homeowners should not attempt to get rid of bees by using a pesticide. Spraying can cause them to move further into the house. Even if the bees are killed, the honey and wax combs left behind attract rodents and insects. That's why it is important to call a beekeeper, he said.

"We get rid of the bees for the homeowner, and we gain a bee hive, said Lynch.

Jessica said Lynch had to make a return visit to remove more bees before her husband could patch up the siding.

According to Jim Reich, vice president of the Central Western Pennsylvania Beekeepers Association, a return visit is often necessary because while the hive is being dismantled, forager bees are still out flying several miles away.

"They return queenless and confused. It's pretty easy to come back and retrieve them," said Reich.

This is the best time of year to remove a colony since it tends to be smaller in size, said Reich. He said if the Clarks had waited till July, there would have been a lot of honey and brood filling up the combs and the number of bees would likely have reached close to 90,000.

Reich reiterated what Lynch said, urging homeowners to call a beekeeper if a swarm of honeybees is discovered in or near a residence. Swarming is a natural occurrence and happens when a colony becomes overpopulated. The swarm is often first spotted clinging to an object such as a tree limb or shrub. The swarm remains in place until scouts find a permanent location, said Reich.

Relocating live swarms -- rather than spraying them with pesticides -- is especially important given their recent decline in population as a species.

Honeybees play a vital role in agricultural productivity around the world. They serve a crucial role in plant pollination and, in recent years, have suffered devastating population losses due to colony collapse disorder and infestations of tracheal and varroa mites.

More information can be found at www.pastatebeekeepers.org or by contacting Jim Reich at 724-283-8637.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer with the Leader Times of Kittanning.

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