When the new neighbors are hornets …

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Beautiful home, nasty owners

An enormous and beautiful home popped up recently near my patio, and all hopes for friendly relations with the new neighbors were dashed when I discovered the inhabitants were bald-faced hornets.

Now, I am not going to launch into one of those “wasps are jerks” rants. Despite what those social media memes will tell you, wasps actually are pollinators and also play a big role in pest control. So they have an important place in the biological balance of the environment.

That place does not include an eye-level nest next to the walkway to my patio. Because bald-face hornets are aggressive, and it doesn’t take much to make them think you are a threat.

We tend to leave the critters in our yard alone for the most part, so we have never called any pest removal company for any of the pests, even small children or teens. But the location and size of this nest required removal, so of course I turned to Facebook, because when you use social media for good and not evil, it can be pretty darn useful.

Several folks recommended Rock’s “Bee” Removal. I was intrigued, not only because it was free (yeah, FREE) but because they send the wasps off to a lab for venom extraction to use in immunotherapy research and treatments. How cool is that?

Travis Rockafellow is a middle-school teacher by day and transforms into “The Bee Whisperer” at night. The company was founded by his father, Lee, and operates out of Perry. What started as a family interest in beekeeping morphed into a seasonal wasp and bee removal business. Since the company gets paid for the venom, they are able to offer the removal service for free. However, according to Travis, money is not the primary motivator here.

“I get an adrenaline rush and it’s fun, even though you are out all night,” Rockafellow said. “And it’s a bit of a three-way thing — you help the homeowners, help yourself a little, and help patients who have reactions to the hornet stings.”

They remove several hundred nests each season.

Who ya gonna call? Rock’s Bee Removal.

My bald-faced hornet nest was removed at 11 p.m., a few days after I first contacted Rock’s. Nighttime removal ensures that all the insects are in the nest (yellow jacket removal is a daytime operation). While I was assured I did not need to be up, I wanted to see how the removal worked, so I showed the employee the location of the nest and retreated to the house to watch the rest of the operation from the back door. In one quick movement, he dropped the nest into a canvas sack that hung on a metal frame. After wiping a few accumulated hornets from his bee suit sleeves, he tied off the top, removed the bag from the frame, and walked off to put everything into the trunk of his car.

The destination? A freezer. Rockafellow and his crew sort the hornets and bees — only the workers and the queen have venom — and ship them off to labs on the West Coast; Rock’s Bee Removal is then paid by the pound.

How do they know what is what? “Queens are huge and have a stinger,” Rockafellow said. “Workers are smaller and have a stinger, but the drones have no stinger. The drones have longer abdomens and longer antennas.”

Tedious? Yes. Worthwhile? Absolutely.

Having been in business for more than 40 years, the Rockafellows now have established relationships with labs and orders to fill every year. They are especially interested in yellow jacket and hornet nests, and it’s important that they have not been sprayed with any pesticide before they collect them — they need them alive, healthy, and uncontaminated. The removal process varies depending on the type of insect, the nest and the location. This excellent video features Travis Rockafellow removing a bald-faced hornet nest and explaining the process.

So if your new neighbors are wasps, consider donating them to a great cause! Give Rock’s Bee Removal a call.

Rock’s Bee Removal

Website: http://www.mihornetremoval.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rocksfreehornetremoval/

Phone: (517) 703-6335

Email: rocksbeeremoval@gmail.com


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About Rebecca Foster 93 Articles
Rebecca Foster writes about food, politics, books and whatever has irritated her on any particular day, on her website Usual and Ordinary (www.usualandordinary.com). She is an occasional contributor to The Livingston Post and has remained active in local politics and the community after serving as Pinckney Village President from 2004-2012, and as a trustee currently. She is enjoying empty-nesting in Pinckney with her husband, three cats and a few chickens.