Generic image of a Australian native honey bee seen at Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney, with news scientists have worked out how bees fly.
Generic image of a Australian native honey bee seen at Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney, with news scientists have worked out how bees fly.

Hive with 60,000 bees snuck into home's ceiling

HOMEOWNER Laurel Lupschen had no idea she was living with about 60,000 bees, quietly collecting honey inside her ceiling. 

There was little sign of the busy bees and their massive 50kg hive, except for a few stragglers spotted entering a little hole.

But Brisbane Backyard Bees owner Paul Wood, who removed the Bracken Ridge hive of European honey bees, said it wasn't an isolated incident.

He's found a 5sqm hive in one ceiling and earlier this year he removed about 80,000 bees and 100kg of honey from a St Lucia home. 

 

The hive removed from a ceiling of a Bracken Ridge home. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees
The hive removed from a ceiling of a Bracken Ridge home. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees

 

Mr Wood said many Brisbane homes could be housing a colony of bees.

"In spring they reproduce and each hive splits in half and the old Queen leaves the hive and sets up a new home," he said.

"Ideally they look for a hollow tree but we don't leave hollow trees standing, we cut them down, so the next best thing is a cavity in a wall.

"It can be a two to three year process before they move in to a permanent home.

"Sometimes people see bees coming in and out of holes in a wall. If you see them from lots of holes they are usually just scouting bees.

"But if all move in and out of a single hole they've established themselves. Generally there's no evidence of bees from the inside (of a house)."

 

The ceiling of a Bracken Ridge home, where about 60,000 bees made their hive. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees
The ceiling of a Bracken Ridge home, where about 60,000 bees made their hive. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees

 

A thermal image of the ceiling showing the hot part of the bee hive, where the Queen lays her eggs. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees
A thermal image of the ceiling showing the hot part of the bee hive, where the Queen lays her eggs. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees

 

Mr Wood said many people didn't mind sharing their homes with bees.

"You can have them in your house for years and they won't be a problem. Some people only bother to get them removed if they decide to renovate.

"If the hive dies for some reason it could do some damage; it collapses and the honey pours through the wall or ceiling."

In the case of the Bracken Ridge hive, homeowner Laurel Lupschen said she never heard the bees but noticed them entering a hole between the first and second storeys of her weatherboard house.

"I thought they were tyring to find a good place for a hive," Ms Lupschen said.

"I could see all these bees going to and fro, it was really lovely. Then I realised eventually where they were.

 

Honeycomb removed from a ceiling at Bracken Ridge. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees
Honeycomb removed from a ceiling at Bracken Ridge. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees

 

"At the time I didn't really think about it and then someone said aren't you worried about the roof falling down because of the weight of the honey.

"However I didn't realise they would attach to the top part of the ceiling, not the bottom, and that there was no danger of the roof falling. If I'd known I would have left them."

 

The European honey bee. Picture: Paul Zborowski
The European honey bee. Picture: Paul Zborowski

 

Mr Wood said he used a thermal camera "which shows me the hot part of the hive, where the Queen lays all the eggs, as well as where the timber frame is.

"When I cut the ceiling open there were about 50 to 60,000 bees in a hive that was maybe 2.5 metres long and about 200mm deep.

"I very gently removed the bees using a bee vac - a big box that has a vacuum on one end of it.

"I then cut the comb and removed it piece by piece. It took two of us three hours to remove.

"We try to minimise casualties. Sometimes bees get stuck in the comb but in a hive of 60,000 bees we're only talking about a couple hundred. That's why we do it slow.

"We look for the Queen and I make sure I find her and protect her and make sure she makes it home."

 

 

A hive of about 80,000 bees found in a bay window of a home at St Lucia. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees
A hive of about 80,000 bees found in a bay window of a home at St Lucia. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees

 

Ms Lupschen said she was amazed when she saw the size of the hive.

"I was so happy they'd been in that space for such a long time," she said.

"I felt terrible about removing the hive but they're going to a safe place and he got just about every one of them.

"The hive was so docile. Even when he was removing the hive you would have thought it would have made the bees so angry but there was not even one attempt to sting him.

"They were so gentle. A couple of bees landed on me but they didn't do anything."

 

A hive of about 80,000 bees found in a bay window of a home at St Lucia. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees
A hive of about 80,000 bees found in a bay window of a home at St Lucia. Picture: Brisbane Backyard Bees

 

The recovered comb and bees are placed in temporary hives in Mr Wood's backyard.

"I have a waiting list of people who want to keep bees," he said.

"In a few weeks this box of bees will go out in a hive to someone's backyard in Brisbane."

Mr Wood said when he removed a hive he bottled the honey and returned half to the owner.


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