Sara Weaver and her husband knew their newest home purchase in Pennsylvania needed some extra love and attention – but what they didn’t know is that an estimated 450,000 bees had been living in the walls for almost 35 years.
Weaver bought the 1872 farmhouse in Skippack, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia, in December and told CNN the seller’s disclosure mentioned there were bees in the wall. But since the couple bought the home in the winter, she said the bees didn’t seem to pose much of a threat at the time of purchase.
“On the seller’s disclosure it said ‘bees in wall’ and that was it and I think because one, we didn’t see them and two, we were just so floored that we actually found land in the (school) district that was within our price range that I didn’t really ask any questions about those bees. I didn’t think it would be that big of an issue. It didn’t even cross my mind but when spring arrived that’s when we started to see them.”
“The seller’s husband passed away and I’m not sure what exactly happened but she wasn’t living there, the condition this house was in was horrendous,” Weaver said. “It was so dirty and now that I’m thinking about it, I originally thought it was dirt on the windows that I cleaned but it was probably honey because there were drip marks.”
Honeybees’ greatest importance to agriculture isn’t a product of the hive, according to the FDA. The agricultural benefit of honeybees is estimated to be between 10 and 20 times the total value of honey and beeswax, data from the FDA says.
Beekeepers across the United States lost 45.5% of their managed honeybee colonies from April 2020 to April 2021, according to preliminary results from the 15th annual nationwide survey conducted by the non-profit Bee Informed Partnership.
More than 20,000 species of bee exist throughout the world – and they are dying, thanks to climate change, pesticide poisoning and plant loss.
The couple didn’t do a home inspection and Weaver admits they probably should have opted for one – but she and her husband had been waiting patiently for a home in the neighborhood to hit the market, so when the farmhouse popped up on their radar, they jumped at the opportunity.
A $12,000 fix to remove the unwanted house guests
Now, that opportunity is costing them almost $12,000 in bee removal and reconstruction of the home.
After searching high and low for the best person to handle the job, the Weavers found Allan Lattanzi, a general contractor and professional experienced beekeeper in the area.
When Lattanzi pulled up to the home, he knew he had been there before. He was called out four years prior but the previous owner couldn’t bear the cost of removal so she left them there and ended up selling the home.
Lattanzi estimates there were 450,000 bees living within the walls of the farmhouse and he relocated three honeybee colonies, the homes bees make on their own, to Yerkes Honey Farm, his farm where he houses honeybees in hives, which are man-made boxes.
Over the span of a week, Lattanzi removed each and every tile on the portion of the home the bees occupied, treading carefully to not harm the bees and find the queen, which he found Friday.
The Weavers are renting the farmhouse to tenants right now, with plans to eventually live there themselves one day. The current tenants hadn’t reported seeing any honey dripping down walls inside the home apart from seeing a few bees buzz outside the home once spring rolled around.
“The bees were docile for a colony that has been in there for a while,” Lattanzi said. “Normally when a colony is in a dwelling for a while they’re usually defensive. Normally when I pull a slate tile off a house I’m instantaneously covered in very defensive bees attacking me, but most of these girls were pretty docile – throughout the entire process I may have only gotten stung five or six times.”
And even though Weaver has to fork out the change for the home repairs and honeybee removal, and it’s caused the couple quite the headache, she said it’s their only option if they want to be able to add onto the home or live in it themselves.