Compound Eye

Compound Eye

The many facets of science photography

On Assignment: Bees in the Wall


Among the perks of being an extremely specialized photographer are the unusual, and unusually interesting, assignments. I recently had an opportunity to photograph a commercial bee removal company in action. They had been contracted to extract a sizeable colony of honey bees from the walls of a residence in Champaign, Illinois, and brought me along to photograph their operation.

The beekeeper poses with the problem. The top of the nest is visible with a couple stones removed, but how far in will the hive go?

The beekeeper moves in for a closer look.

Bee removals require a contractor's skills to dissemble (and later rebuild) the wall. The bees are surprisingly patient as the jackhammer chisels away the mortar.

Dismantling the wall.

The nest turns out to be massive, and this removal will require extensive rebuilding of the wall. Note the standard honey bee nest architecture: brood in the lower and center parts of the nest, and honey at the periphery and top.

With a contractor blocking their flight path to the nest, returning bees pile up in a holding pattern.

Bees are vacuumed off their combs for installation in an off-site hive.

The hive contained several pounds of ripe honey. Unfortunately, honey from house walls can't be used without knowledge of the chemicals the homeowner may have applied in fighting the bees.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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