Bees making nest in water meter vault

californianApril 13, 2007

My water meter is inside a concrete vault buried in my front yard. Today I noticed a steady stream of bees coming in and out of the hole in the concrete cap that the meter reader uses to pry the cap off so he can read the meter. He will be in for a surprise when he opens it up. I notice very few bees around my area this year and I have several fruit trees still in bloom so I was thinking about just leaving them alone, at least until the meter is next due to be read in about a month.

I figure I could probably kill them if need be by just covering up the hole they are using to get in and out. If any bee keepers in the North Orange County area of California want them come and get them.

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txbeeguy(z8 TX)

Bees located in an undesirable location such as you describe should be taken care of. There is little use in mentioning extreme (albeit, unlikely but not unheard of) examples of the negative consequences for not remedying the situation you've mentioned. Property owner liability, water meter-reader reaction to bee stings especially if they're AHBs - so called, 'killer bees' - which I believe are in your area, etc., etc. I would encourage you to either have them removed or kill them outright (Sevin Dust around the entrance). Bees located where they are not wanted are at least a nuisance if not a danger.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 2:43PM
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txbeeguy(z8 TX)

As I've mentioned before, if you live in an AHB area, it's better to be safe than sorry. Ran across this article just a few minutes after posting the above reply. (I wasn't looking for it, just ran across it when looking for the local storm news - he's ONE lucky guy, especially at his age):

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- A 91-year-old man from South Texas is slowly recovering after he was stung by an estimated 1,000 Africanized honey bees at his ranch last month.
Manuel Trevino said he was cutting brush on his San Diego ranch on March 31 when he backed his tractor close to a windmill, unaware of an underground hive of bees.
"They came flying," he said. "I had on gloves, but was wearing short sleeves, they were all on my face and covered my arms."
He said he fell off the tractor, swatting his face. The bees followed him as he walked a half mile to his daughter's house.
"His arms and head were as black as an unshaven beard with those things," said his wife, Florence Trevino. She said his face puffed out "three times its size," and his eyes were swelled shut for five days.
It took doctors at Christus Spohn Hospital Shoreline, who estimated the number of stings, 12 days to remove all the stingers, treat his eyes, and supervise dialysis after bee venom shut down his kidneys.
His daughter, 55-year-old Gracie Gonzales, said it was a miracle he'd survived.
"He's like a cat with nine lives, either lucky or God's just not ready for him yet," she said.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 2:59PM
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I read several threads on this forum about bee hive removal and have some questions. I called several beekeepers I found phone numbers for in my area but only got answering machines so don't know if anyone would want to remove these bees. Obviously I can't leave them there because the water meter reader couldn't read the meter, which is next scheduled to be read on May 15.
1.If I just plugged the hole they are coming in and out of how long would it take the colony to die of hunger or thirst?
2. How long would it take for the bees to make a couple of pounds of honey? There must be a lot of them because they are lined up at the entrance waiting their turn to go in or out.
3. If I had to kill them in a hurry and didn't want to use poison so as not to contaiminate the honey could I drown them by sticking a hose into the entrance and flooding the vault? Would it be better to use soapy water, and could I do that at night without getting stung? BTW, I am allergic to bee stings.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 6:15PM
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Just made a call to a the beekeeper who wants $125 to remove them. He says no one is doing it for free anymore because all feral bees in Orange County are considered to be Africanized and nobody wants them.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 7:11PM
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txbeeguy(z8 TX)

Answers ( least my answers):
1) Longer than you're probably willing to wait.
2) A few days (perhaps 2 or 3)...too many variables/unknowns to give an exacting answer.
3) Maybe/likely. Soapy water would kill them faster but also contaminate the honey and good chance you'd be stung at least once (perhaps more, if they're Africanized).

For your second posting. Call around to find the most economical. Sources to try: City/county animal control, fire department, police department, your county Ag Commissioner, wildlife/natural science centers are some suggestions, they frequently maintain lists of "volunteer beekeepers" or at least some cheaper (maybe).

I personally wouldn't get overly excited about trying to salvage any of the honey - it may not be worth the additional time or trouble. It would be a lot less trouble to go to a farmer's market and just buy a pint or quart there.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 10:40PM
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Update on my bees in the water meter vault problem. Some women beekeeper said she would take the hive but then never showed up so it looks like its up to me. I hate to kill the bees but it looks like I have no choice. Out of curiosity I would like to salvage the honey and bees wax if possible without contaiminating them with poison. Some ideas I had.
1. Starve them out by blocking the entrance and waiting. But on another website some women said a bee has been traped behind her window shade for a week and is still alive, and thats without food or water, so the bees in the water meter vault probably have enough honey stored to hold out for quite a while, but I don't know if they need water too. That women beekeeper said she thought it would take five days for them to die if I just plugged the hole.
2. I was thinking about sticking the end of my unlite propane torch in the hole and filling the chamber with propane gas, maybe that would asphixiate them without poisoning the honey.
3, Another idea would be to stick a funnel in the opening and pouring ammonia or chlorox into the vault and hope the fumes would kill them.
4. Maybe get brave and put on two or three pairs of pants and a couple of sweatshirts and a heavy coat and gloves and put a mosquito net over my head and try opening up the cover and pull everything out myself and then put mothballs in the chamber to keep them from coming back.
5. Or forget trying to salvage the honey and bees wax and just get a can of wasp killer and empty it into the hole or use that sevin dust someone recommended.
6. Or last choice, put on all the protective stuff, open the chamber at night, and then stick a garden hose in it and flood the chamber, and hope they leave and don't come back and hope they don't sting me or anyone else the next day.
7. Any ideas or recommendations would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 2:15AM
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bandit_tx(z7-8 TX)

A few cubic feet of propane gas would make an impressive boom if it caught a spark (hope your cell phone doesn't ring while you are doing this). Carbon dioxide would be safer. Drop a little dry ice in the hole and seal it for a bit.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 1:02PM
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Nobody has asked or brought up the question of whether these are actually honeybees this gentleman is dealing with. Here in PA honeybees like to nest up high. I've never heard of honeybees nesting underground. We usually assume those to be wasps. Specifically the dreaded yellow jackets.

I don't know California, and don't know what insects are indigenous, or common. Just a thought as to identifying the bees before jumping to conclusions.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 5:41PM
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I know these aren't yellow jackets and I don't think they are africanized because I can stand two feet away from the entrance and they aren't attacking me. One article I read said if you got within 50 feet of an africanized hive they would attack. I will let them live as long as possible so they can pollinate the neighborhood plants, but I will have to kill them before May 15 which is when my meter is next scheduled to be read. I bought a bottle of ammonia today and plan to pour it into the hole at night using a funnel and then immediately cover the hole with a brick. Hopefully the ammonia won't contaminate the honey. The dry ice idea sounds good but I don't know where to buy it and I would also have to open the top to put in a big chunk and would probably get stung doing that.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 9:33PM
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Aegis(z9 CA)

I'd say your chances of harvesting honey are almost nil...if it is a new-ish hive, any honey will be scrambled in with everyting else. Water vaults are kinda small...I can't imagine a proper hive developing (although I've heard AHB hives are smaller than the standard EHBs.

It is very difficult to get capture a hive....much nicer to capture swarms.

Dry ice sounds good (a lot of grocery stores carry it...Stater Bros around here). Propane might be fun, but htere is that element of I think you might impart some flavor (if you intend to harvest). My thought is to kill the hive by flooding with some soapy water. Use a floral smelling soap, and maybe you can pick out some honey??

good luck

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 1:20AM
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Followup: I just went outside and noticed the bees have come out of the water meter vault and have formed a big pile of bees about a foot away on the grass. Must be over a hundred of them in an 8 inch by 8 inch area? Are they swarming and getting ready to vacate my water meter vault or what? I called a beekeeper and he said he might come and take a look but thought maybe it was too hot for them in there and they came out to cool off. It was 97 degrees here yesterday and might get almost as hot today. I notice a lot of bees walking around on the soil of my potted plants, could they be looking for water?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 3:26PM
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A beekeeper finally came but it might have been too late. He gathered up all the bees that were in a pile on the grass, he said there were over a thousand even though it didn't look like that much from a distance but he said the layer of bees was an inch and half thick. But the disappointment was when he opened the lid of the water meter box he found four combs laying on the bottom, and we could see that they had been attached to the lid. So evidently the city water department may have beaten him to the colony by half a day and knocked the comb off. We just hope they didn't poison them and that the queen is somewhere in the swarm of bees. The combs were also all covered with ants. Could the ants have driven the bees off, or did they arrive after the bees left? The beekeeper said bees can defend against ants. But we didn't see any dead bees inside the box so maybe they weren't poisoned. I hope so anyway. I plugged the hole in the cover so no other bees can get back in.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 2:03AM
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