HAMLET — A year into renovating a historic home they purchased, Sammy and Ashley Garcia found it already had tenants — a hive of bees.
“We were scraping up on the balcony and all of a sudden there was a shadow,” Sammy Garcia said Wednesday afternoon as the unwanted guests were being removed from the home, which was built in 1924 by J.P. Gibbons and designed by Charlotte architect Louis Asbury.
David Tarlton said he noticed what he thought was a comb, about the size of a 5-gallon bucket, hanging out of one of the four columns on the front of the Minturn Avenue home.
But it wasn’t the comb — it was a swarm of bees.
He then called local beekeeper Phillip Perkins to help evict the insects.
With bees buzzing around his head, Perkins used a shop-vac them up from the plaster ornamentation at the top of the column.
“He put a sponge in the bottom of it to soften the impact, so it won’t damage the bees too badly,” his wife, Norma Perkins, said as he pulled out bits of honeycomb.
“This whole thing is a beehive,” Phillip Perkins shouted from the lift. “This whole thing is a honeycomb.”
A few minutes later, he came down to give the homeowners an update on the 18-inch hive that stretched across the top of the column, and give them a taste of the honey.
“That hive right there probably had about 30,000 bees in it,” he said. “It’s a big hive, but it’s not that big. I have found no egg cells at all — that’s what puzzles me.”
At the height of the season, Phillip Perkins said there are about 100,000 bees per hive. At the end of the season, once the drones are gone, the population dwindles to about 40,000.
“I’m just glad you called me to get the bees out,” he told the Garcias. “I believe most of them in that vacuum cleaner there are still alive….most of them are gone…you give that thing about two days and you can go up and do all the work you want around it.”
Without the hive, he added, the bees have nowhere to go — as long has he managed to get the queen out. If not, he’ll have to come back.
As for the ones captured, they will go back to a hive at the Perkins’ farm.
“It’ll take ‘em about three months to get well…because they’ve had a rough ride today,” he said.
For Richmond County residents with similar bee problems, Phillip Perkins urges not to kill them.
“Call the agriculture department and they’ll contact a beekeeper and we’ll come and get them,” he said. “We need to keep these things alive….bees are hurting worldwide.”
According to Phillip Perkins, three-fourths of food consumed by humans is due to the pollination of bees.
On his farm, he lost 15 hives last year to colony collapse disorder, which he attributes to pesticides.
“If we could make local gardeners just understand that if you’re going to poison on the garden, do it after 6 in the afternoon,” he said. “Honey bees go home around 5 or 6 o’clock, poisons die out overnight.”
Most bees that get into poison never make it to the hive, he added. If they do, they take it back to the hive and infect the rest of the colony.
Perkins is a member of the Richmond County Beekeepers Association.
In 2015, he planted a field of clover and granola in the Richmond County Industrial Park, which was later cleared to make room for RSI Home Products.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.