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North Queensland woman sleeps next to active hive of bees for months without knowing

Sophie Meixner, Friday October 6, 2017 - 16:17 EDT
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The 1.5m x 0.75m beehive was found behind the wall next to Ms Stevenson's bed. - ABC

A North Queensland woman who has found a hive of live bees behind her bedroom wall slept next to them for months without knowing.

Builders stripping walls in Rachel Stevenson's Proserpine home for cyclone repairs last week found an 1.5m x 0.75m hive of bees next to her bedhead.

"They were just above the bedhead and the bottom of the hive is probably only 30cm or 40cm above my head," Ms Stevenson said.

"I'm getting a lot of people questioning me about how I didn't hear them."

Cyclone tourists

Ms Stevenson said the bees may have arrived with tropical Cyclone Debbie in March, but could have been there for up to two years.

"I did notice a lot of bees around a few days after the cyclone, but so did a lot of people, so I never thought anything of it," she said.

"I'm thinking maybe some water got into their hive from the cyclone, scaring them out for a little while."

Despite the buzzing insects living so close to her bed, Ms Stevenson said she had not heard them or smelt any honey.

"They might have been sleeping," she said.

"I live only about two houses away from the sugar mill, so [perhaps] the noise from the sugar mill has drowned out the humming."

Walls provide ideal home

Sarina beekeeper Paul Marsh said it was common for bees to lodge in wall cavities, but in most cases people would notice them coming and going.

"A lot of times people see them swarming into the house," he said.

"They'll see a swarm of bees and then it will be gone. There would have been activity flying in and out.

"There's obviously a hole somewhere; 95 per cent of the time, people know there are bees in the house."

He said the space between interior and exterior walls of houses was ideal for bees because there was plenty of room to move.

"When bees swarm, the hive is crowded so half of the bees leave with the queen and they need to find somewhere they can settle in that's got plenty of room for expansion," Mr Marsh said.

"The cavity is not terribly big in between the walls but there's plenty of room up and down.

"You only need a little 10mm hole to get in, so quite often there's plenty of them around."

Bees, like ants, do exhibit changed behaviour during cyclones and weather events.

"They know when there's rain coming," Mr Marsh said.

"An old beekeper I know years ago told me once when you see bees doing a certain thing on their landing board, it's a sign of rain coming, and I did see that prior to the cyclone," he said.

Unusual wall feature

He said the presence of bees inside a house was not necessarily a reason for panic.

"If they're not doing any harm, I'd be happy to have a hive of bees in the cavity of my house," Mr Marsh said.

"They're not going to get physically into your house generally.

"You might get into their flight path, you might get stung, but if the bees are quiet, I'd say to people if the bees are in your house, if it's not bothering you, then let them stay, they're not going to essentially do much."

Ms Stevenson said she had no phobia of bees or insects and was not disturbed by the experience.

"It hasn't really frightened me really; maybe if I could see them I wouldn't have slept there," she said.

"I like bees, I wouldn't pick them up or anything like that but I would never hurt them.

"I actually had my cousin suggest I should get them to just put up a sheet of glass or perspex and have them as a feature."

The bees will be removed from Ms Stevenson's house and rehomed elsewhere in a new hive.


© ABC 2017

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