Scott Whitaker from Hinterland Bees on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, runs more than 100 hives as a beekeeper, but also has a side hustle removing beehives and swarms that turn up in the wrong place.
The beekeeper is a champion of saving colonies rather than letting a pest controller exterminate them. He captures the queen, retrieves the honey and relocates the bees.
As he points out, killing the bees in situ doesn’t solve the problem of up to 100kg of honey in the hive, which then attracts other pests, ferments and results in a black ooze dubbed ‘slime-out’ destroying the roof.
But even the 22-year industry veteran was a little taken aback when he was called to a house in Nambour, 100km north of Brisbane, recently and found a “monster” hive in the bathroom ceiling.
The hive, which began three years ago, contained an estimated 50,000 bees, and took nearly 12 hours to painstakingly remove, with Whitaker using a vacuum cleaner to suck away the bees into a contained hive before he removed the comb.
A hive grows to a maximum population of around 60,000 bees – he did the maths based on the six-week life cycle of a worker bee, with a queen producing 2000 eggs daily and 500 bees dying daily.
“Despite signs that this hive had swarmed recently (I found recent queen swarm cells), this hive must have been close to maximum population,” he explained.
“All of the brood comb was almost black, a result of many generations of bees making their cocoons as they pupate turning the cells darker and darker as time passes.”
Whitaker saved eight frames of the brood comb. Most of the other comb, he noted, was filled with drones.
Whitaker makes videos of his adventures and posted the details of this retrieval, saying: “Just as I thought I might be getting to the end I discovered the honey stores went back another four foot into the ceiling and contained comb as long a my arm, packed with honey.”
The home’s owner, Vicki Arthur, now has “a good supply” of honey “for the foreseeable future” while the rest will be fed to the colony as it reestablishes.
The ABC reports that Arthur’s mother had tried to get other beekeepers to tackle the hive before Whitaker took on the massive task.
Here’s Whitaker’s footage of the retrieval.