, Port Arthur, Texas


September 24, 2012

Bees living in bathroom wall get new home

GROVES — If Bryan Muldrow hadn’t removed bees from my bathroom wall, they might still be there making honey — or the call I made to a local pest control company could have resulted in something more lethal than smoke, taking the bees from the present tense to the past tense. Fortunately for the bees, and for our ecosystem that depends on the pollination service the busy insects provide, Muldrow has a passion for rescuing bees that have set up a honey shop where they’re not wanted. And the price is right. He took them out of my wall and gave them a new home for free.

I first heard of Muldrow several weeks ago when there was an announcement in the master gardeners column that is published on Page C3 in the Sunday paper every week. He was going to lead a seminar on bees sponsored by the Jefferson County Horticultural Committee. I knew then that I had bees in my bathroom and I wondered if Muldrow could be of assistance. Then when the pest control company asked if I would like to have the name of a beekeeper would rescue the bees rather than fumigate them, I told them I would and the name they gave me was the same as the beekeeper I had recently seen in the paper.

I gave Muldrow a call and told him I had bees, a lot of bees, in the wall of my bathroom. I explained to him some potentially complicating factors but Beekeeper Bryan wasn’t going to be deterred. We made an appointment for him to come out in the next day or two to take a look.

Bryan and his wife arrived at about dusk one day a couple of weeks ago and I showed them around the side of the house where the bees have made home sweet honey home in the wall beneath my bathroom window. The bees were coming and going in their busy bee way and Bryan stood as if mesmerized. “This is their flypath,” he announced. Then he commented that there did seem to be a healthy number buzzing to and fro, visible against the twilight purple glow of the evening sky.

Having assured himself that this was a hive worth his effort, he said he’d be back on a weekend, probably in two weeks, to remove the bees. He had several other bee removal projects going that he had to finish before he could get to mine. True to his word, Bryan arrived on the appointed Saturday and had removed the cedar siding from my outside wall by the time Celines and I got home. He was accompanied by his wife and two apprentice beekeepers, who were learning what they could about bees from the master. They were all dressed in protective beekeeper clothing, with the wide-brimmed safari hat with net from the brim to their shoulders. They had leather gloves with cuffs that went half way up their forearms. Bryan used a smoker, basically a can with a spout on one side and a bellows on the other. The coals in it were already hot when I got there, but I did see him refill it with twigs from the yard. He would force air through it with the bellows, and smoke would come pouring out the spout. He aimed it lightly at the bees to calm them down as he was dismantling their home.

When they started methodically removing the hive, we could hear the explanation he was giving his protégés. The honey doesn’t spill out, because the cells in the honeycomb are built angling down. Bees start at the top and work their way down when building their comb. Bees don’t like vibration so they glue everything down with wax. The part of the comb that is home to the larva bees is called the brood. He estimated the hive in my wall to be home to about 35,000 bees.

He showed the other beekeepers how to measure the comb to cut it so it would fit in the frames that go into his beehive. Rubber bands would hold the honeycomb in place until the bees could glue it in place with new wax. He said bees are very tidy creatures and would cut through the rubber bands and toss them out of the hive. He was warning one of the newbies that one day he would discover rubber bands outside his new hive and that’s where they came from. Something similar happened to the insulation in my wall — the bees removed it all, along with the paper backing on the wallboard that is the inside wall of the bathroom. There’s nothing left but the gypsum.

They worked as a team and removed the honeycomb from the wall and put it into the frames that go inside the box that makes up the hive. Dark came before they were finished, so they put some honeycomb in a tub as food for the bees and left it in the yard next to where their hive used to be. They also left one of the hives they had loaded with honeycomb hoping to entice the remaining bees to move in. They gave us a nice section of honeycomb for our breakfast cereal. It is thicker and darker than the honey I buy at the store and has more flavor. Anyone eating raw honey should understand that it could contain bees knees as well as other parts. But the bowl full we got looks pretty clean.

We sort of miss the bees now that they’re gone. We would find a bee inside the bathroom every now and then as a reminder that they were there in the wall creating their geometrically perfect habitat. We never did find out how they were getting in. But now they’ve been taken to a new home at Muldrow Bee Farm in north Beaumont. Bryan said those bees will be in a state of shock because of their home being ripped apart and moved, so he will be providing them with the honey supplies and the environment they need to make it through the winter. He was very confident that this family of bees will continue to do the work they were meant to do, pollinating plants and making honey.

Bryan invites anyone who would like to learn about bees, rescue a hive from a place it shouldn’t be or find out about putting a hive on their property to give him at call at (713) 377-0356. The bees of this world are in danger and they need more people like Bryan Muldrow on their side.

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