PINELLAS PARK — In the middle of March, city officials warned John Scherer about his raggedy fence and the old camper with expired tags in his back yard.
Officials wanted Scherer to clean the place up and get rid of the camper. They agreed to help the 68-year-old, who doesn't have the money to clean it up himself.
Then they discovered the bees.
"That changed everything," said Scherer, 68, who has lived at his Pinellas Park home for 51 years.
That's because inside the small popup camper, officials found an unusual group of squatters: about 200,000 European bees. Before any work got done, the bees had to go.
On Tuesday evening, Jeff McChesney of Truly Nolan Pest Control got rid of the bees, extracting about 80 pounds of honey in the process. "There's probably another 80 pounds in there, in the walls, but I just couldn't get to it," said McChesney, who planned to take the honey home and give it away.
The trailer was abandoned four years ago by a man who lived in it for a couple of months, Scherer said. Nearby is a Brazilian pepper tree, which probably attracted the bees, McChesney said.
The bees weren't happy to be roused from their comfy pad. Even as McChesney used smoke to try to calm them, the mass of insects produced a hissing sound that could be heard several feet away.
Now that the bees are dead , city officials plan to make good on their promise. Officer Daniel Butterworth of the community redevelopment policing unit, who originally cited Scherer for the code enforcement violations, has coordinated an effort to clean up the rest of Scherer's yard.
Local charity People Helping People is involved, as is Home Depot and the city's waste management department. Volunteers plan to return to the home May 27.
Scherer is just glad his backyard neighbors are gone. "It's just amazing that they would pick out an empty trailer to live," he said of the bees. "They had time to grow and grow and grow. It blows the mind."