James in Atwater Village called the Bee Rescue Hotline when he noticed that a hive was established in his water meter again. I stopped by this afternoon and found a bunch of very busy but calm and easygoing bees.
I took the cover off the water meter and cut out four or five combs. I fastened the ones with brood into some empty frames using rubber bands. I scooped all the bees I could find into the nuc box with the frames.
But it was pretty obvious that I didn't have the queen. No bees were fanning their wings at the edge of the nuc box to tell the other bees that their home had moved. And I still heard a lot of buzzing from the perimeter of the water meter.
That's when I figured out that the whole outside gasket of the water meter could be pulled out of the ground. In the photo below you can see it sitting upside down on the grass—there were lots of bees (and, I assumed, the queen) lodged in the gaps around the edge.
Once I knocked those bees into the box I knew I had the queen. It's really amazing to see how the bees' actions change once you've got the queen where you want her. Everyone else marches into place, and your new hive is ready to go.