Woman Finds Hundreds of Honeybees Living Inside Washing Machine

A hive of hundreds of honeybees has been discovered in a washing machine, where they'd been busy creating "gigantic" pieces of honeycomb.

Erika Thompson, professional beekeeper, regularly shares her bee removal work on social media, as she strives to "save the bees."

Thompson, the founder and owner of Texas Beeworks, in Austin, is often called out to rescue hives that have set up a home inside toilets, under sinks, on tennis courts—and even in singer Jason Derulo's tree.

But it was a recent clip of a swarm of honeybees that had moved into a washing machine that captivated viewers, after it was shared last month. The video can be viewed here.

The video has been watched more than 40 million times, and proved so popular that people began sharing their own parody versions, which Thompson shared on her page.

She captioned the video: "A washing machine full of bees!" as she explained in the TikTok video, and full-length version on YouTube, the backstory to the appliance becoming the bee's home.

"This washing machine had been repurposed and was being used as a compost bin. . . until bees decided to move in and build a hive there! The homeowner had lifted the lid open a few days before and was stung, so I was called to give these sweet bees a new place to live," she said.

Thompson revealed the insects had been living in the machine for nearly a year, after the owner decided to "upcycle" it.

She talked people through the delicate process, saying: "I carefully lifted the lid, and I found a beautiful hive full of honey and very gentle bees. When I looked inside I saw layer after layer of fresh honeycomb. The bees had worked so hard to build this hive, and I wanted to do everything I could to preserve it for them.

"So I started to remove the outermost parts of the hive with nectar and honey on them. Then I reached the heart of the hive, the brood nest. This is where the queen lays eggs and where baby bees are born. Everything that I removed from the washing machine would be given right back to the bees in their new hive."

She described the pieces of honeycomb as "gigantic," saying: "But these pieces of comb were pretty big, so I had to cut them in half to fit into the wooden frames of the new hive. I secured each piece of comb to a frame using rubber bands. Then I put the comb into a new hive."

The bees still seemed reluctant to leave, so Thompson gave them a helping hand—literally.

"Next I started scooping bees out the washing machine and putting them into the new hive. As a professional beekeeper, the most important part of my job is being able to understand bee behavior. And I could tell that these bees felt comfortable with me as we worked together," she said.

Thompson completed the bee removal without any protective gear or gloves, later explaining in the comment: "It was in the 90s and I was out there for a couple hours altogether. So for me, I was more comfortable without a suit for this particular removal."

She confirmed: "I always wear protective equipment when I need to."

But Thompson was still hunting for the most important element of the hive—the queen. She carries a queen clip on her shirt when doing a removal, so she can safely identify the leader.

As she scooped out most of the hive, she said: "After most of the comb had been removed from the washing machine, I looked around and suddenly I saw the queen at the back of the washing machine. She was a strong and beautiful queen. So I put her in a clip to keep her safe and I put her in the new hive.

"It looked like most of the colony had moved to the outside of the washing machine, so I used my smoker to herd them into the new beehive using a little bee bridge I made for them. I scooped a few more handfuls of bees into the new hive. Then I left the new hive there all afternoon, when I returned just before sunset, most of the bees had moved into the new hive. So I Ioaded the bees into my truck and we drove home."

@texasbeeworks

These videos keep getting cuter! Thanks to @cocoaussy for these, & for raising #servicedogs for people in need! #puppies #puppylove #cute #bees #fypシ

♬ original sound - Erika Thompson

After loading up the truck, she returned home, confirming the bees are welcome to stay forever. She added: "I had just enough daylight left, but I was able to get them settled into their new home in my apiary, and it was another great day of saving the bees."

In separate videos, Thompson addressed the danger element in her line of work, saying: "People always wonder how I can stay so calm when working with bees, but really the only way you can be when you approach a colony of wild bees is to be calm and to move with care."

Numerous people praised Thompson for her work protecting the species, at a time when bees, a key pollinator and crucial part of the ecosystem, are under threat.

Jennifer E. Crawford wrote: "Thank you for sharing this with us, you do such a beautiful job! It's a joy to witness."

But Thompson has come under fire in the past, accused of faking her videos, while fellow bee-keepers hit out at her methods.

@Lahoneybeerescue claimed Thompson was promoting bad practices with her attire and lack of safety equipment in clips shared earlier this year.

In a video, which appears to have since been deleted, the rival beekeeper said: "What she's doing, going and opening hives with her hair down, wearing dark clothes with exposed skin, is dangerous.

"She doesn't show her wearing protective gear when she analyzes the hive at first. She shows herself removing comb her husband has pre-cut for her very courteously."

@Lahoneybeerescue's TikTok and Twitter account appear to have since been deleted, while the Instagram account indicates it is an "archive." The Google listing for the establishment states it is permanently closed.

While honeybees differ from bumblebees, they're the two most common varieties of bee, a species that has seen its numbers plummet across the U.S.

"Due to habitat loss, global warming, pesticides, and monocrop agriculture, their numbers are in sharp decline across the United States. The loss of bees and other threatened pollinators could damage not only the world's economy, but also endanger its very ecosystem," The Student Conservation Association warned.

Earlier this year, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition to grant Endangered Species Act protection to the American bumblebee. A release announcing the petition claimed the bee population has declined across the U.S. by 89 percent over the last 20 years.

Entomologist Jess Tyler said: "We're asking President Biden to be the hero that steps up and saves the American bumblebee from extinction. There's no question that human activities have pushed this bee toward extinction, so we have the ability to wake up, reverse course, and save it.

"But this late in the game, it's going to take the powerful tools provided only by the Endangered Species Act to get the job done. Anything short of that and we risk losing this iconic part of the American landscape forever."

Newsweek has reached out to Thompson for comment.

File photo of a honeybee colony.
File photo of a honeybee colony. A woman has shared a video of herself removing a hive from a washing machine, viewed more than 40 million times. Natali_Mis/Getty Images