5 On Your Side

Honeybee infestation is insurance problem

Posted October 27, 2010 2:26 p.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2010 6:59 p.m. EDT

— Homeowners insurance covers damage from catastrophic events, including fires, tornadoes and hurricanes. But it doesn't cover damage other things, including insect invasions, that can really mess up a home.

Rocky Mount resident Cheryl Pitt has been dealing with a bee infestation and her insurance company for weeks.

First, she found bees around the outside of her house. Her husband sprayed to kill them.

"There were like thousands of bees dropping dead on my floor," Pitt said. She cleaned it up and thought the problem was gone.

Then, she found honey coating the floor of her laundry room.

"The stuff started dripping from my ceiling," Pitt said. "I feel like it's something out of a horror movie."

When she pulled down the ceiling panel, she found honeycombs, honey, dead bees and larvae.

"It blew my mind," she said.

Pitt called her insurance company, which ultimately told her that standard homeowners policies do not cover insect damage.

"I've been here for 15 years or more, and I've been paying them," she said. "This is my insurance company that I've been dealing with since I owned my home, so I don't understand."

Although a bee invasion isn't common for homeowners, costly damage from other insects and animals – such as termites, bedbugs, bats and squirrels – is more common. Homeowners insurance doesn't cover that damage, either.

"If you go back to you policy language, you can see fairly clearly spelled out in that language (that) it is excluded," Kristin Milam, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Insurance, said.

It comes down to whether damage is caused from an ongoing maintenance or an unforeseen event, Milam explained.

"There could be a home that maybe has been infested with termites for years and years, and nobody has taken any measures to even see if there have been" any termites in the home, she said. "That's different than if lightning strikes your home and starts a home fire."

Bedbug infestations, though, are not related to home maintenance, and getting rid of them is expensive. New York is considering a law that would require insurance companies to offer bedbug coverage.

Luckily for Pitt, the damage to her house is not major and just requires repairs and clean up.

"I want it gone. I want things back to normal," she said.

Keep in mind that homeowners insurance is intended for catastrophic losses and repairs that homeowners could not afford to pay for, no matter what. File a claim for anything else, and your rates could go up, or your policy might be canceled altogether.