June 1, 2018 – Slinger, WI – A bit of a dicey situation at Kettle Moraine Playhouse in Slinger as 100,000 honeybees have made their home inside the back wall of the theatre.
“It’s still rather cool for them inside the wall so there’s not much activity, but they’re in there,” said Playhouse Board member Ray VonGunten.
Hailed as the IT Director for the Kettle Moraine Playhouse, VonGunten has also donned another hat. “I’ve just been dubbed the man in charge of getting rid of the bees,” he said.
VonGunten walks behind the former St. Paul’s Church, 204 S. Kettle Moraine Drive, and points to a small, quarter-size hole at the roofline of the brick building. It’s about 25-feet to the roof and as we stare at the little black hole, one wonders what the buzz is all about. Someone who can easily confirm the bees are there are the contractors and project managers from Keller Inc.; that’s the locally-owned company that did a majority of work on the remodel.
A neighbor to the north of the Playhouse is also a bee expert and loaned his protective beekeeping gear, including a vented suit, gloves and mesh hat, to the project manager from Keller Inc. when he was working on the chimney.
A remodel of the old church was underway in 2017. The Playhouse staff found the bees but didn’t want to spend the money at the time to have them removed so the project manager at Keller Inc. and the HVAC sub contractor put on the bee suit to install a special vent so the bees wouldn’t get into the building.
Now that the theatre is open for business, the board has determined it’s time to deal with the bees.
“Harvesting the bees won’t be a big expense,” VonGunten said. “Where we’re really going to get hit is the cost to repair the roofline and the fascia.”
This isn’t the first time to try to rid the building of its mammoth beehive. Prior to the Playhouse purchasing the building someone was hired to poison the bees.
“The fella had been contracted to try to kill off the colony and because of that the honey will not be salvageable,” said VonGunten. “During this effort we’re going to make sure that’s taken out of there as well.”
A special, smooth hose will be used to vacuum out the bees from between the walls. “The hive and honey will also be cleaned out and then the bees will be placed in a temporary location before they’re moved to a permanent colony,” VonGunten said.
While it’s not possible to hear the hum of the hive, either inside or outside the building, neighbor Janine Lisser said she’s seen them in mass. “I’ve lived here almost 18 years and I’ve had a couple of experiences with the bees,” she said. “At least half of the colony left the building and swarmed a bush in our backyard.”
Photo courtesy Chris Lisser
Lisser describes the size of the swarm by holding her arms in a huge circle as if she’s trying to wrap her arms around a giant redwood.
“They’ve never really been a nuisance but there are times when they’re very active and you just have to be respectful,” she said.
The process to remove the bees is expected to happen in mid to late June.
Photo courtesy Kettle Moraine Playhouse
In the meantime the Kettle Moraine Playhouse is looking for assistance to help pay for the project. Click HERE for details.