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Apartment building abuzz when swarm of bees moves in

LornShaw said she swatted dozens honeybees bedroom her LaGrange Park apartment April 15 after swarm got inside an interior wall

Lorna Shaw said she swatted dozens of honeybees in the bedroom of her LaGrange Park apartment April 15 after a swarm got inside an interior wall of the Forest Glen Apartments. | Photo courtesy of Lorna Shaw

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Updated: April 24, 2012 4:26PM

Lorna Shaw felt like she was starring in a horror movie when the bees kept coming as fast as she swatted them in her LaGrange Park apartment. Then she looked outside.

“There were thousands upon thousands of them. We thought it was a dust cloud,” Shaw recalled about a swarm outside the Forest Glen Apartments on April 15 .

Alarmed, she called building management for help and began consulting experts for advice. She estimated swatting more than 100 bees, and her boyfriend was stung.

A day after the bees moved in, workers sealed the hole in the building where the bees were coming in and out — which only made the problem worse. The next day Shaw found 30 bees in her bedroom, she said.

She spent two nights in a hotel and then pulled her mattress to her living room for safety.

“One of the things you don’t want to do is seal that entrance. They will then look for another exit,” said Russ Higgins, a commercial agriculture educator with the University of Illinois Extension service in Shabbona.

Higgins said the best strategy would have been to consult a beekeeper to remove the hive or a trained exterminator licensed to use insecticides not available to homeowners.

By April 20, maintenance workers made a hole in Shaw’s bedroom wall and removed a nest. She said she was grateful, but is still finding a few bees each day.

The apartment complex manager refused to comment and when asked to explain how the situation was handled.

Gary Gates of La Grange, past president of the Cook-DuPage Beekeepers Association, said the group has a network of beekeepers willing to come out and relocate a swarm.

“A swarm happens quite regularly when a hive becomes too crowded and scout bees are sent out for a new location,” Gates said. “It does happen occasionally they get into a person’s home or walls. Bees like that enclosed space to feel protected.”

Removing a hive from inside a building is a more specialized capture than simply sawing off a tree limb with a swarm into a box to relocate them, he said.

“You have to know where to cut the hole,” Gates said. “Some people take a stethoscope and go along knocking on the wall until they hear a bit of a disturbance.”

Gates, who raises bees for a hobby in Aurora, said people are willing to relocate, rather than destroy honeybees today because of “colony collapse disorder,” which is mysteriously devastating honeybee populations.

“People are more sympathetic to the plight of honeybees,” he said. “People are understanding of the honeybees are very essential to the environment.”

Gates said an early spring with warm weather has prompted bees to become active sooner.

“Bees are very docile,” he said. “Normally they’re just focused on getting things taken care of, but if you disturb the hive you could get stung.”

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