When Arlington County acquired a former office building at 2400 Shirlington Road as part of the Nauck Town Square project, it didn’t realize it had also acquired an enormous honey bee network.
Vacant since March of this year, the building was set to be demolished to make way for the town square (now being designed). When County staff discovered the elaborate hives sandwiched between a window and a plywood board, they contacted David and Emily, a husband-and-wife team of beekeepers who happen to live in Nauck.
On a hot Saturday in June, the couple spent 6 hours painstakingly removing the hive, keeping as much intact as possible to transport it to a local community garden at 10th and Barton streets. The dark, un-air-conditioned building (which no longer had electricity) made for some sticky working conditions, with dripping honey, melting beeswax and angry bees swarming as their home was displaced.
“Rescuing this hive wasn’t much different than wanting to rescue any other animal trapped in a bad situation, although I admit I wouldn’t have been sympathetic if it were a nest of hornets or wasps,” David said.
“About six years ago I was reminded of being a kid and going to a farm’s market every spring and being fascinated by their display of honey bees behind glass. I wasn’t allowed to keep bees as a kid and it occurred to me that I wasn’t a kid anymore so I thought I’d try it. I was surprised when Emily agreed to give it a try.”
Hundreds of Pounds of Honey Recycled
The couple estimates that the hive contained around 70,000 bees. They were able to salvage more than 100 pounds of honey but weren’t comfortable harvesting it for human consumption with unsanitary working conditions and having to destroy a lead-painted window to access the hive.
“The honey was not salvageable but it won’t go to waste,” David said. “We will strain it as best we can and feed it back to the same hive; they’ll need the honey to get through winter.”
Q&A About Bees
If you find a bee hive in your home or yard, contact the Norther Virginia Beekeepers Association, a local beekeeping club whose members are often available to collect swarms of honey bees or to remove established colonies from structures. It is easy to submit a request on www.novabees.org. Learn more about swarming and honey bee swarm behavior and Arlington’s nature centers, programs and natural environment.
Want to avoid a beehive forming in your home? David recommends sealing any cracks and gaps that lead to crawl spaces, a porch roof, eves, attics and the like. Bees are beneficial but you don’t want them as uninvited house guests.