Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Not so Abandoned Albertsons

View from below

     So the county bought this bowling alley and failed Albertson's with great notions of turning them into a community center.  Unfortunately, as seems to happen with increasing frequency, funding disappeared and the county merely maintains the property.  We have been to several of these properties since the bees in their industrious ways, take advantage of the lack of human activity to move in and make tremendous hives.  Such was the case with this Albertson’s. 
     On first inspection, I hoped that we could approach the hive from the inside, through sheetrock with minimal ladder work.  As it turned out, however, the bees were too far up inside the wall, behind massive, load-bearing beams for us to access easily.  So, in lieu of scaffolding, which wouldn’t fit in the narrow pathway below the wall, Joey mounted the 30’ ladder.  Luckily, Jose, the county worker assigned to accompany us on the job, had a harness for Joey that we anchored to the roof with one end of the rope while using the other end to heave a bucket for tools and, eventually, bees. 
View from roof
     The building was constructed in 1946 so the siding was massive thick redwood boards.  Between Joey on the ladder and me on the roof, we exposed the hive.  It filled one wide 16” bay from the roof down to a foot about the window (approximately 4’ in length and 8” in depth).  A very thriving hive.  Starting from the bottom, Joey sliced off comb and passed it up in the bucket to me on the roof where, if I could use it, I fit it into frames and secured it with rubber bands (the bees remove them with ease within days).  When he came in passing range, he began scooping bees in a cup to pour over the brood frames I secured.  At the top of the hive was mostly honey which, though tasty, is a death trap for the bees once it starts flowing.  It gets all over tools, suits… everything, and the poor bees can’t fly when they’re covered in it.  It’s definitely my least favorite part.  We filled two five gallon buckets with the comb and bees were everywhere cleaning it up.  We scraped the bay as clean as we could and anchored the new box/home in place so the bees could move in.  As long as yellow jackets don’t clue in and slaughter everyone, the bees do an excellent clean up job if left to it.  
     The next day, they were still wandering aimlessly, like they’d lost focus (their queen).  Given the awkward circumstances, it's difficult to locate and avoid harming the queen.  We stuffed sheets all around the hive to prevent her from running to another, even more inconvenient, location.  But she may have flown off, or been crushed in honey.  Luckily, we were planning on combining this hive with one of our small hives that would otherwise not make it through the winter so we had a queen to spare.  I captured her in an aerated cottage cheese cup (I tried to put her in a proper queen cage but she kept curling up in resistance!).  We were concerned that the bees might, in their riled up state, attack and kill her, but she walked in the front entrance to a welcoming hum.  When we checked back again, they had returned to their regular, focused, behavior.

Me on the roof, Jose in room below
Removing last comb

     Finally, we returned Saturday morning to remove them to our apiary.  They were cooperatively all inside the box, the walls were honey free, and, aside from Joey having a bout of vertigo that had him puking and me going up and down the ladder, all went smoothly.  We have another booming Sonoma County hive in our apiary.