Up until recently, Victoria Clayton and her boyfriend were under the impression that they were the only ones sharing their charming home in Cape May, New Jersey -- but boy were they wrong. Little did the couple realize that, just overhead in their attic's crawl space, a thriving colony of more than 30 thousand bees had turned their quite cottage into the center of a booming honey industry.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Victoria first noticed a rise in the number of honeybees in her garden this season, and they seemed to all be carrying their pollen-hauls up to a vent in her attic. After taking a look upstairs, it soon became clear that the boarding bees were settling-in for an extended stay; their massive hive measured several feet across and was poised to inundated the house with honey.
Given the imperiled state of bee populations across the U.S. due to colony collapse disorder, which has wiped-out as much as 90 percent of the nation's wild honeybees, Victoria chose not to call an exterminator. Instead, she called a bee-rescuer.
Enter Gary G. Schempp, 57, of Cape May Court House, who is so intrigued by honeybees - just honeybees, not bumblebees, carpenter bees, yellow jackets, or wasps - that he sold his 30-year-old pest-control business five years ago to deal solely with them. Schempp founded Busy Bees NJ, a honeybee rescue enterprise that aids inundated home and business owners.
Schempp, who maintains a vast apiary on his Route 47 farm, uses his old exterminator skills to locate bees inside walls, floors, crawl spaces, and other places, and charges a minimum of $500 a day to remove and relocate them. Some jobs take days, depending on the level of infestation.
Using a specially-designed vacuum which feeds into mesh insect cages, Schempp gently collected tens of thousands of bees from the attic space, remarkably suffering just two stings in the process. But those little owies were nothing compared to what was in store had Victoria not acted:
"A comb this size and this active could have caused huge problems for this structure," says Schempp. "It would have continued to get bigger and bigger inside the walls."
While the problem of unwelcome bees is certainly nothing new for stinger-weary homeowners, it's refreshing to know that a humane solution may be catching on. After all, it makes little sense to exterminate a creature which plays such a crucial role in our daily life by keeping our agricultural systems healthy and sustainable -- even if they're building a small bee-city in your attic.
Fortunately, Victoria's bees now have a new home on Schempp's farm where they can buzz around in peace.