With a laugh, Helena Suehiro describes the experience, “It’s crazy!” Her mother’s Haiku house has been targeted not once, but twice by hungry honey bees. The house was built in the 90′s and doesn’t have insulation. The space between the walls in the living room became the perfect home for some honeycomb.
Helena says it first happened about two years ago. “The bees are eating from the top by the roof and what’s been happening is they must have been eating through the drywall to escape because it’s so full inside the walls from all of their honeycomb.”
They set up shop on the left side of the beam that time. The beekeeper came to get the bees and insulation was put in the wall to keep it from happening again. “But the other side of the beam still didn’t have insulation so this time the bees made the right side their home. Three days ago, my mom came home and the bees were swarming in the house, so she listened to the wall like she did the first time. We could hear them buzzing and feel the vibrations,” said Helena.
The family first started noticing the bees several days ago as the little critters started eating through the dry wall. “We would patch the walls with duct tape and then the bees ate through the duct tape so mom was just sick of it already and called the beekeepers again.”
If a colony of bees starts to get too crowded in their space – in this case the Suehiro’s wall – they will make a new queen for the current location and the old queen will swarm with a large group of bees to find a new home and start a new colony. According to Mikiala Freitas and Moana Wietecha of Kapuna Farms, the Haiku area is a great spot for bees. “It’s super moist and the bees just love it,” said Helena. In fact, Helena and her family often have beehives in their ficus trees. The neighbors down the road have the same problem.
They also shared with Helena that based on how black the hive was, it was likely there in the wall for a long time. Mikiala explained, “Fresh comb starts off white then it goes through a lot of color changes – tan, orange, red, brown and dark brown. The comb was almost black so it was probably at least a year old. We think an old swarm probably left it behind and new bees moved in. There were also very fresh combs in the wall too. The largest area was 4 feet by 2 feet with three layers of comb.” As surprising as this situation might be to some of us, Miki and Moana are quite busy with similar situations all over Maui, “Our phones are blowing up trying to control these wild swarms,” they said.
It took the ladies of Kapuna Farms much of the day to extract the bees. First estimating the location, then cutting through the drywall and identifying the freshest bee larva (to remove that part of the comb first) before looking for the queen bee. The Suehiro’s chose Miki and Moana because, as Helena puts it, “They are really passionate and concerned for the bees safety.” The ladies of Kapuna Farms only use natural products to extract and deter the bees.
In this situation, the colony was also compromised by hive beetles. “Our concern is for the safety of the bees. The hive beetle eats the larva and lays eggs in the comb. We can set up traps for the beetles and kill them so that the honey bees can focus on making babies and honey instead of fighting off the beetles.” After the extraction, the bees were brought back to their organic farm in Waihe’e to establish a new home. Mikiala says they are already thriving.
Helena estimates there were thousands of bees in the wall… “Maybe fifteen thousand or so” said Mikiala. So, what should you do if you come across a swarm of bees? Remain calm, don’t make any sudden movements and slowly walk away. Call a beekeeper to come take care of the problem. Mikiala wants people to know “there are many natural ways to deter the bees from your house using natural oils like peppermint, cinnamon and tea tree oil. Please don’t spray them with insecticide or any other weird chemicals! Every bee counts.” Also, whatever you do, DON’T swat at them. They will perceive a threat and attack.
Fortunately, no one in the Suehiro family was stung but the bees sure seem to love making a home in their house. In fact, Miki and Moana are setting up a swarm trap in the coming days. “I’m sure they’ll be back. My mom thinks she’s cursed because in college she was a Biology major and she used to keep bees… she was a bee collector. It’s karma,” Helena said with a giggle.
If you have a beehive or swarm on your property, call Mikiala with Kapuna Farms LLC at 808-346-9293.