‘Bee Whisperer’ takes infrared image that reveals giant anomaly hidden in wall of Tennessee home
It’s the kind of nightmare few homeowners imagine themselves ever having to confront: a swarm of stinging insects, piece by piece conquering your home, and infiltrating so deeply into its foundation that you can’t even find their base and solve the problem. That’s precisely what one Tennessee resident found when their home started to become overrun by a colony of bees.
But when the professionals arrived on the scene, what they found at the source of the issue shocked them to the core. As it turned out, a crafty colony of honeybees had done far more than anyone could have expected — and what the bee removal team ultimately found was a rare sight that left them in astonishment.
1. Pro in the field
They call him the Bartlett Bee Whisperer. Based in the town of Bartlett, just outside of Memphis, Tennessee local David Glover has made bees his profession for the past nine years. He specializes in understanding their behavior, with plenty of expertise having removed beehive after beehive. He safely rehabilitates the winged insects after he’s done his job.
Naturally, there are quite a few occupational hazards associated with Glover’s line of work. He has been stung many times over the years, and encountered many bizarre situations. But despite his countless run-ins with bees and the strange places they manage to fortify themselves, nothing could prepare him for what he found lurking inside one client’s home.
2. Bats in her belfry
You can have nearly a decade of experience in the field, but eventually there will come a day when even you are left absolutely gobsmacked. In the fall of 2018, the Bee Whisperer David Glover was called to an assignment in nearby Germantown, Tennessee. A homeowner complained that bees kept getting into her attic.
As the Bee Whisperer arrived on the scene and geared up, he began trying to size up the scale of the problem, and locate where in the house the bees were coming from. But when he saw their origin point, the surprise of its appearance would make him do something he rarely ever did.
3. Just in reach
Unlike their larger and more ferocious relatives, wasps and hornets, honeybees only need the tiniest of entry points into a building’s foundations for them to sneak in and set up shop. Fortunately for Glover, the beehive at hand wasn’t too high up, so it wouldn’t require a ladder, unlike many of his other projects.
At the bare minimum, the hive wasn’t stuck high up a tree like hornets nests often are. But as David Glover the Bee Whisperer was about to discover, having identified the source of the problem just within arm’s length was to be the least of his concerns. From the outside of the building, nothing looked amiss. Yet that was far from the reality of the situation.
4. Assessing the damage
To assess the scope of the suspected infestation, David Glover used the instruments he had brought along to take an infrared scan of the affected building. From the results of the scan, it appeared there was a colony of bees living inside one of the brick walls of the house. It was clear that from this hidden hive, they were flying up into the homeowners’ attic.
But given the size of what he began to uncover, how the owners only complained about bees going into their attic and nowhere else suddenly seemed to downplay the size of the problem. In light of what he would find, it was a wonder the entire house had not been totally taken over.
5. The weep hole
To ascertain how to best begin dismantling the yet unseen beehive, first the Bee Whisperer had to find their entry point. Glover discovered that the bees had infiltrated the house in the first place by entering through what’s called a weep hole, a space between bricks that allows for water drainage.
They had also trickled in through the corner of a window, and any gaps in the bricks that they could find. It had started with several scout bees finding the right opportunity and now, left untended long enough, the situation had evolved into something much more massive and critical to deal with. Glover had to take action quickly.
6. Sneaky infiltrators
Certainly, with the beehive being as large as it was, the homeowner had been aware of the issue for some time. This was not the first occasion that someone had been called in to tackle the problem. Calling in the Bee Whisperer for duty was a sort of a final resort.
An exterminator had been phoned onto the property before, but because of the thick tangle of wax the bees had created in their hidden hive, the pesticide that was sprayed had not evenly distributed throughout the entirety of the colony’s beehive. Glover realized he had to take a different course of action.
7. Careful work
This beehive removal project was particularly tricky. There were inherent risks involved, given how deeply embedded into the building the beehive had become. Removing the bricks could damage the foundation of the house, and the bricks themselves might crumble and be rendered useless when at last they could be put back into place.
Of course, as he’d remove their hive, there was the risk that the Bee Whisperer would get swarmed by the colony, with hundreds of angry soldiers on the defense. Carefully, he began to pick apart the first bricks. But behind each one, he kept seeing beehive structures. Where it would end, though, would leave him flabbergasted.
8. Non-combative method
Unlike the exterminator from pest control that the homeowner had previously called in, the Bee Whisperer did not believe in killing his targets. For starters, killing the bees inside a home, whether in the walls, the ceiling or foundation, leaves behind a giant mess that would have to be cleaned up.
Glover’s method was much more efficient and less invasive. It involved removing the honeycomb entirely along with the bee colony, in order to take it to another location. As he noted, this was shaping up to be quite the delicate task. That was why no steps were rushed nor haphazardly executed as he revealed the source of the problem in Germantown.
9. Revealing scans
Homeowners affected by bee infestation often don’t initially comprehend the sheer size of the beehive on their property. They typically expect something relatively compact and easily visible, like a wasp or hornet’s nest. The case in Germantown, Tennessee, for example, deceived the onlooker, totally hidden by the brick wall.
But honeybees can be much craftier than expected. In fact, the infrared scan results left even the Bee Whisperer himself in amazement. What the image measuring thermal energy revealed was that this was about to be the largest project David Glover had ever undertaken. In fact, he was going to have to remove far more of the house than previously anticipated.
10. A sight to behold
Once he understood just how unbelievable the scale of this beehive was, not to mention the amount of work it would take to dismantle the bricks and extricate it, David set up a camera to film himself doing the unique job not knowing that it’d later create quite the buzz on social media. For his first step, he sprayed smoke over the entrances to the hive.
This is standard practice in banishing bees from their hive momentarily, as the bees not only dislike the smell, but the smoke inhibits their ability to communicate effectively with one another. As fat rows of confused and disoriented honeybees began to crawl up the windowpane, Glover drilled a hole into the first layer of brick covering the hive.
11. Piece by piece
Glover removed the first brick whole, without having to shatter it. All in all, he had to remove 12 rows of bricks in order to get to the source of the issue inside. Just being able to fully expose the network of passages in the honeycomb that comprised the beehive was the first act of battle.
Now, he would have to see just how deep the layers of wax-framed honeycomb went, and would have to analyze their shape in order to remove them while keeping them as intact as possible. Then, he suddenly encountered a clue as to the scale of the issue — and it was far from what was initially expected.
12. Queen cells
This beehive had been left undisturbed for long enough that it had grown enormous, and the bees inside were already making preparations for the future. In the first slice of the comb of the beehive, the Bee Whisperer found a total of seven “queen cells,” meaning there was an abnormal multitude of queen bees.
All in all, as he mapped out the entirety of the beehive that had been concealed by the bricks, Glover would find 13 such queen cells. The beehive was brimming over, and getting ready to swarm. Their expansion project was already underway, and it was up to him to prevent that from happening.
13. Wax maze
Ever so gradually and with expert care, David Glover chipped away at the comb of the beehive, piece by piece. He had to do this very slowly so as to try and preserve each twist and turn of the tunnels without breaking them up. He wanted to rehabilitate the bees.
There was a rationale behind this method, as the combs throughout the middle of the hive had many intricate tunnels and passageways linking between them. He had a crucial reason for keeping things as intact as he could. This may have been a hive that had invaded a home, but technically, they were no pest. But his work wasn’t done.
14. The next generation
David took rubber bands to tie the different pieces of the brood together, eggs, pupae, and larvae of the honeybees. He then placed the different segments of the hive into special beekeeper frames that he had brought along with him. That way, they would be kept sturdy as he relocated them.
In the sections of the hive that had not been previously sprayed by chemicals and therefore had remained untainted, he extracted the honey the bees had produced and put it into a bucket. After a diligent amount of work on this most delicate of operations, once the whole beehive all out, an incredible sight was revealed.
15. Thousands of footprints
The hive was now in pieces in the special frames the Bee Whisperer had brought, but the honeybees had left their mark. There was an enormous tan blotch on the interior layer of the bricks of the house. It was a stain — created by thousands upon thousands of tiny bee feet!
Now that he had extracted all the bees and the honeycomb itself, he had to clean up the remnants and the damage to the house foundations that they had left. Because of the dangerous bacteria that can be found inside beehives, it required a thorough job. The homeowner was certainly glad to see the hive gone, but still the bees needed to be relocated. But to where?
16. A sense of bee-longing
Once he had completed his mission in Germantown, David took all of the bees from the hive back home with him — that meant all 30,000 of them! He decided he would keep all of them in his own backyard until he could find a safe permanent place for the colony to rebuild itself.
He already kept several bees there, and hoped the new incoming colony would incorporate nicely with his backyard’s current winged residents. While he was still unsure as to what to do with the beehive that he had extricated from Germantown, he had a keen sense of why it was worth keeping them around.
17. Reversal of fortune
When someone orders pest control to get rid of an insect problem, generally the goal is utterly eradicating the problem. That’s not the case with honeybees, who serve a greater purpose and can even have an economic benefit to them. This meant the Bee Whisperer’s job was not that of a typical pest control expert.
Glover wanted to try to find a farmer who would adopt this colony of bees, someone who needed them for pollination and could use them as honey producers. Having a colony this massive on his property was like having a goldmine, a fount of potential honey production. After he wrapped up his work, Glover took to social media to post the video of his operation. The post went viral with more than 80,000 likes. His account points to important details to keep in mind, including vital information to know about honeybee.
18. Docile bugs
Generally speaking, when it comes to the stinging insects, honeybees tend to be among the least aggressive, unless they are being directly engaged and antagonized. Even then, unlike wasps, they must pay the ultimate price for their stings: it kills them. But the Bee Whisperer had been fortunate that what he had removed in Germantown was from the right variety.
The American South, particularly the Southwest, is more and more becoming a host to a far more sinister strain. What David Glover had faced was impressive, but one bee remover in Texas, the owner of Gotcha Pest Control, was left recovering after one of the most dangerous missions he had ever faced.
19. Far more dangerous
A call in October 2018 – just around the same time bee relocation expert David Glover was on mission in Tennessee – brought Claude Griffin to a nightmarish scenario. He had been in the bee-removal business for more than two decades, when he was summoned to a Houston area home in disrepair, belonging to an elderly woman.
She had been plagued by a problem for what she estimated was upward of 10-20 years, and nobody had come to help her. But from the unbelievably dangerous situation that Griffin and his team of pest removers were about to discover, it was a miracle she had not yet been seriously harmed.
20. Clear and present danger
There were two enormous beehives that had consumed the entire side of the woman’s home. The noise from them was unbelievable, but nobody would come fix the home. Given the size and scale of the infestation, not to mention what kind of bee was responsible for it, perhaps there was a good reason for their wariness.
The entire home was in a state of disrepair, with canned goods scattered on the floor. A hole in the roof allowed for the elements to enter inside. It had been all too easy for this powerful colony of insects to set up shop and take over the surroundings. The elderly woman was defenseless against the invaders, although they posed an ominous threat.
21. Foreign invasion
The beehives belonged to Africanized, or “killer”, honeybees. While the beehive that had embedded itself in the bricks of the Germantown, Tennessee home that David Glover had dealt with had been impressive, particularly because of how well-concealed it was, these ones were staggering in proportion. Left untended for more years than the woman could recount, they had gone completely rampant.
The series of enormous hives that had taken over this elderly woman’s home were, in Griffin’s estimate, between 9 and 12 feet in height. As he soon discovered, in certain parts, they were up to three feet in thickness. To make matters worse, this type of bee was unpredictably violent. How could anyone begin to take these apart?
22. Grueling work
As difficult as the woman’s living conditions were already, the bee removal team could do was to alleviate her situation by getting rid of the perilous pests. But that was easier said than done. Griffin and his crew had to work up to eight hours in order to remove the towering beehives.
The beehives had already become an integral part of the lady’s home for many long years. It was an incredible undertaking, and the bees were aggressive, reacting to the disturbance much faster and with greater intensity than an ordinary honeybee might. But then, something shifted — and the situation got much worse.
23. Unexpected complications
Removing a beehive is a delicate operation, but getting rid of a swarm of Africanized honeybees is an exceptionally risky task that requires the utmost care and thick protective gear. But for Griffin, there was a spat of bad luck, as the elements conspired against him. It began to rain in the middle of the job.
This left Griffin and his crew members particularly vulnerable to the onslaught of bees that were bombarding them in an attempt to defend their territory. With the wet weather, his protective suit became inundated, weighted down, and clung to his skin, leaving it within perfect distance for a determined Africanized honeybee’s stinger to penetrate. In the face of unpredictable peril, their well-being was potentially at stake.
24. Painful mission
Eventually, with the help of Houston City Council, the entirety of the two Africanized honeybee hives were dismantled, freeing the side of the house. But by the time it was finally done, the workplace hazards of the mission had already taken their toll on Griffin, who reckoned he was stung over 40 times in the course of the project.
To make matters worse, the project had continued well after dusk. Though bees are usually most docile at dawn and dusk, the Africanized honeybees were relentless, and he was continually stung in the dark, unable to see his attackers. But in the American Southwest, this was far from an isolated incident.
25. One million attackers
Given the size and complexity of the two hives that he had dismantled, Griffin estimated that there had been up to one million killer bees that had set up shop inside the elderly woman’s home in Houston. But at least he’d had the support of the Houston City Council in dismantling it.
Several months before, in the west Texas city of El Paso, residents who had been threatened by a killer beehive for three years were told that it was their own problem, not the city’s. But in the near future, all of that is going to change. This issue is far from going away.
26. The winged menace
Africanized honeybees were first bred in Brazil in the 1950s by biologists hoping that by bringing bees from Tanzania, they might be able to produce honey better from a species already accustomed to hot and humid climates. But they could not have imagined the disastrous fallout that would come from their experiment.
The African honeybees in Brazil bred rapidly with the European honeybees that had already long since been introduced to the region. Their behavior patterns were altered, making them much more defensive, more likely to swarm, and more relentless in their assault against any perceived threat. And they began to migrate.
27. The southern invasion
Africanized honeybees made their way north over South and Central America during the following three decades. They first appeared in the U.S. in 1985, in Southern California. Since then, vast swaths of the American Southwest and Deep South are now firmly killer bee territory. The cross-bred flying insects are able to fly roughly a mile a day.
Killer bees are known by their more sinister moniker because of their ruthless combined attack on anything that upsets them. More than 1,000 fatalities have resulted from killer bee attacks since their introduction to the ecosystem, including one man whose lawnmower’s rumbling upset a nearby colony. Regardless, when getting rid of them, or even normal honeybees, there are some helpful tricks of the trade.
28. Old hives tale
Bees sleep in the early morning and evening hours, so this makes them the optimal times to remove a beehive. That being said, professionals should be consulted if the hive is not a small one. When in doubt about which kind of stinging insect has created a colony outside your home, the shape and material is most easily spotted.
To build their nests, most wasps and hornet species typically use a paper-like substance created by regurgitating chewed-up wood pulp and mixing it with their own saliva. Honeybees, on the other hand, are able to produce their own wax, secreted from their abdomen. But there’s something else honeybees do that truly sets them apart.
While European honeybees are not native to the Americas, and there are roughly 25,000 different species of bees that pollinate flowers, honeybees are essential to food production as we know it today. This species in particular is used to pollinate up to 70 percent of crops worldwide. That, rather than honey production, is their primary function in a human-run ecosystem.
Over the past decade, honeybees have experienced a terrifying crash in their numbers, attributed to what is known as Bee Colony Collapse Disorder. The culprit has been pinpointed as both a virus as well as mites that are feeding on the bees. The high die-offs wreaked havoc on up to 70% of American honeybee populations. And the results could be cataclysmic.
30. Bee grateful
Theoretically speaking, if the European honeybee population relied upon for agriculture should suffer further collapse and near extinction, the economic results would be beyond comprehension. Estimates of financial losses in the agricultural sector run in the range of $212 billion. And this loss would be tangibly felt by everyday people.
A vast variety of crops that we take for granted in our everyday diet of fruits and vegetables rely on pollinator species to sustain themselves. Without our honeybee helpers, apples, almonds, peaches, and even broccoli would all become but a memory. Even if they can sometimes become a nuisance, honeybees are an essential part of our ecosystem.