bee rescue

A humongous hive in a house

Retired NYPD detective Tony Planakis, known as “TonyBees,” was the first person to convince me of the wonders of infrared photography for beekeeping. Once I saw photos of his colonies, I was convinced that infrared was the way to go.

But his latest adventure just blew me away. Tony was called to a house in East Islip, New York to investigate a colony of bees in the wall of a guest room. In a corner of the room, he found the largest colony he had ever seen in the wall of a building—and Tony has seen hundreds over his 40 years working with bees and cut-outs.

A guest room for 120,000

The entire nest measures about 15 inches across and 7.5 feet (90 inches) high and contains roughly 120,000 bees. No one knows exactly how old the nest is, but the owners thought they first heard a buzz from the guest room several years ago. Based on experience, Tony thinks the colony is at least seven years old. The 1938 home was a perfect choice for the bees because the walls are not insulated, and the chimney bricks have pulled away from the mortar, leaving a convenient access point.

Tony explained that removing the colony now—going into the winter months—would destroy it. So the owners of the home, Nicholas and Sandra Sarro, agreed to leave it in place until spring. As of now, TonyBees is planning to remove the colony in April. Be sure to click the links (above) for more photos and details of the discovery.

Waiting for April

So TonyBees, don’t leave us in suspense! We expect to see lots more photos in April. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome photo.

And for you beekeepers out there, don’t forget to buy a Flir imager for your smart phone—it’s the best beekeeping tool ever.

Honey Bee Suite

The honey bee nest in the corner of the room is 90 inches long.
The humongous bee nest in the corner of the room is 90 inches long. Photo by Anthony Planakis.

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  • Hi Rusty,
    I so promise you, from start to finish, I will be sending you photos. I’m sending you photos of a job I did with Mike Rowe (Dirty jobs) that hive was close to 10 years old. The Propolis was lacquered over and the brood cells were so small limiting development. Classic, “occupy-abscond-swarm/occupy/abscond “(roof was leaking) nightmare!!!!
    Happy and Healthy Holidays!!!
    Thank You again!!!

    • John,

      Might work. I use this type of thermometer for cooking, making cheese, and reheating leftovers. Very convenient for lots of things.

  • Re FLIR, I had two tries with a FLIR ONE for Android USB-C, on a MOTO G6 Verizon, neither worked long and would no longer connect with the app. Beware the time window for dealing with returns. FLIR comped me a C2 but it doesn’t equal what little I saw of the FLIR ONE’s picture quality.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I picked up a Flir, about a year ago. They are great. I used mine, this past summer, on a similar type of frame house. It helped me keep the damage, to a minimum. I vacuumed out, most of the hive, but a storm came through, and knocked out power. So, I went home, with part of the colony. The next day, i returned, for the rest. I got almost all. As I was taking my equipment out, the windows filled up with bees again. I pulled out my Flir, and part of the colony, had escaped, past the stud, into the next wall void. So, I had to do an additional cut, to collect them. Without the Flir, I wouldn’t have known where to look.

  • Pretty neat. Across from one of my out yards there is a chimney in an old farm house that has had bees in it for years and every year I put out extra hives to catch the swarms it produces. They leave the chimney and come across the street to the bee out yard. These wild colonies are pretty cool. Surviving without a beekeeper to tend to them. Would be nice if all bee hives were like that ! Last year they produced several good queens that I was able to catch and use in other hives. Seems like these hives are more hardy. Despite all their tribulations, they endure. Looking forward to seeing what Tony does with these bees next year. He can do a ‘live Podcast’ …. ha ha.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Real quick, point-n-shoot laser thermometer gives you spot temperature, it won’t give you a “Thermal Image” or foot print of the heat source. I have those also (a few) and I use those for HVAC. I actually use both for my HVAC work but only the thermal imager for apiary/beekeeping.


  • I understand that the infrared “laser” thermometer will only give point data, but those data could be used to compose a thermal image, or at least approximate the location and center of the winter cluster.

  • Hey John,
    Understand that the “picture” or footprint your getting from the outside of the hive or wall or whatever your shooting, is a true footprint of the heat source. The camera I’m using is the Fliri7, when first produced,7 plus years ago, it was the introduction to the “Big boy” cameras that Flir offered. Extremely sensitive, at the time I paid $2800.00. Again, I used this for HVAC and cut outs. It paid for itself in my first month of use. That camera also has sensitivity settings, brick, wood, stucco, Sheetrock etc. I like the fact, I can walk in on a job and instantly, know what I’m up against and I can show the homeowner exactly what’s going on behind the wall. Again, I can work with the laser pointer thermometer, scan left to right, up and down then draw the outline on the wall. FYI, I did a job once, years ago it’s in the “Bee People” video. The heat footprint was picked up through a 3/4 layered wall. No way would a thermometer have picked it up, I opened the wall, wax moths!!!! It’s in the video.

  • It sounds like that the old house is a good location for the bees — they have been thriving there for 7 years. Who knows how well they will do when transplanted elsewhere … I always wonder about that when I hear about colonies being removed from various places.