Millions of Bees move in to foreclosed homes

Photographs by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times  KEEPERS OF THE BEES B. Keith Councell removes bees from houses in Lee County, Fla., and keeps them at the St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Monastery with help from Mother Andrea Nicholas, top right. The monastery uses the honey and beeswax. Signs of bees abound, even on power line poles on Pine Island. From The New York Times By JOHN LELAND Published: April 20, 2008 click to read more and see video.
CAPE CORAL, Fla. — In a county with one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates, empty houses have attracted a new type of nonpaying tenant: bees.     Residential foreclosure rates are high in Cape Coral, Fla.     Tens of thousands of honeybees, building nests in garages, rafters, even furniture left behind.    When a swarm came to the foreclosed ranch house at 3738 Santa Barbara Place in Cape Coral, town officials called B. Keith Councell, a fourth generation beekeeper and licensed bee remover.     On a recent evening, Mr. Councell stood at the light blue house’s open garage door as hundreds of honeybees buzzed over his head and past his ears, disappearing into a hole behind the water meter. The house has been without a human occupant since December.     Then he did what he does at most foreclosed homes: nothing.     “If it’s in the yard I just take care of it,” Mr. Councell said. “But if it’s in the structure, usually I can’t get permission to go in. And it’s a problem, because somebody’s going to get stung. It creates a risk for everybody around.”     Foreclosed houses around the country have been colonized by squatters, collegiate revelers, methamphetamine cooks, stray dogs, rats and other uninvited guests. Mr. Councell, 35, only has eyes for bees.    Last year, he said, he answered calls about bees in more than 100 vacant houses, and the volume was higher this year.



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