Honey, we're home: How a case of mistaken ident-a-bee landed this CBC reporter 40,000 new friends
It's like the bees knew Carolyn Stokes would give them a good home
When CBC's Carolyn Stokes first noticed what she thought were wasps flying around her home in St. John's, she thought she had a big problem on her hands — not 40,000 new friends.
It turned out the house guests were not wasps but honeybees. They weren't initially invited over, but after a dramatic rescue Stokes decided she's keeping them, tucked away in a hive all their own.
"It was meant to bee!" she said — pun intended.
After noticing a lot of buzzing around one of her St. John's home's dormer windows, Stokes used a drill and a camera to have a look inside the plaster.
She tweeted out the results, and a guess about what she'd found.
"Exploring the inside of a wasp nest!!" she wrote.
Exploring the inside of a wasp nest! The peak above the window is filled with a humongous nest. Today we had a look inside. Eeek!!! <a href="https://t.co/Zxlk0pFYnu">pic.twitter.com/Zxlk0pFYnu</a>—@CStokescbc
The tweet generated a lot more buzz than she thought it would.
People wrote to say the insects were honeybees, not wasps. And since she'd just covered a honeybee rescue at the Avalon Mall, Stokes knew exactly who to call.
'We really need our honeybees'
Beekeeper Paul Dinn said he'd never seen anything like her situation.
"It's the first one I heard of possibly in the province of extracting them from someone's home," Dinn said.
The bees Stokes had in her wall were an established colony, not just a swarm, and he thought there could be anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 of them.
Dinn proposed a resettlement of the bees to the Adelaide's Honey Bee, Pollinator and Wildflower Reserve, which he runs with his wife Brenda Dinn.
Holding on to the bees is important. Newfoundland honeybee populations are thriving while beekeepers in the rest of the country are struggling with disease and pests in their hives, he said.
"We really need our honeybees," he said. "We've got to really protect and cherish them."
The rescue plan was simple: cut out part of the wall and get the bees into a hive, then take the hive to the bee reserve.
The execution? Maybe a bit more complicated, especially with a CBC (Cee-bee-cee?) camera crew in the way.
Dinn got everybody into protective suits, warning them that if a bee got under the protective veils over their faces they'd have to reach up and give it a pinch.
"Squish 'im!" he said.
"I hope that does not happen," Stokes said.
Just like after Sunday dinner
It's important to stay as calm and as quiet as possible around bees, Dinn said, noting that'd be pretty difficult in this case: the crew would be sawing out a chunk of Stokes' wall.
He had a smoker ready to make the bees dopey when the honeycombs were exposed.
Bees communicate by pheromones, he said, and the smoke interferes.
"The smoke dampens that, so they can't get the word out that there's a problem."
It also sets off a panic response in the hive — the bees will think there is a fire threatening their home.
When bees panic, they gorge themselves on honey in case they do have to pack up and move..
"And when they do that, it's like us after a Sunday meal," he said.
"They're right luggy and they're laying on the couch and they're relaxed."
Nice combs, honey
Once the plaster came off, Dinn took a look inside the wall.
"I see the comb and it looks great! It looks great," he said.
Oh and this is what the bees looked like INSIDE the wall. You can see all the combs hanging down, the honey is just dripping everywhere. <a href="https://t.co/EWen2xtuKV">pic.twitter.com/EWen2xtuKV</a>—@CStokescbc
Dinn started looking for the queen so he could place her in the hive he'd brought. Once she was squared away, he said, all the other bees would follow her lead.
"Start thinking of a name for the queen now," he said. His final estimate on the number of bees in Stokes's wall was 40,000.
Hive almost full. Haven’t found the queen yet. <a href="https://t.co/kyuiZIsZ4j">pic.twitter.com/kyuiZIsZ4j</a>—@CStokescbc
It was dark by the time Dinn was ready to transport the hive to his reserve, but the bees won't be at his place for long.
In da Gould’s <a href="https://twitter.com/adelaideshoney?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@adelaideshoney</a> this morn to free the bees! They’re doing very well. They’ll stay here for 2 weeks while I repair my house, then they’ll come back to live in my yard. Paul figures they adopted me first so becoming a beekeeper was “meant to bee”! <a href="https://t.co/DvSjsssAUr">pic.twitter.com/DvSjsssAUr</a>—@CStokescbc
In two weeks, they'll be back where they came from, at Stokes's house in downtown St. John's. She's adopting the hive, fulfilling a long-standing dream to have bees of her own.
"I've always wanted to keep bees," she said. "I'm a gardener!"
And with returns like these, who could blame her?
With files from Carolyn Stokes