LA Backwards Beekeeper Warren writes:
Hi, this is Warren writing from beautiful downtown Highland Park. Melanie, newbeek Yann, and I recently went to a home in Glendale to cut out a colony living in a pool heater. Here's the story:
A few days earlier, I had met with the homeowner, Andy, and we checked out the situation. It was 5:30 p.m. and no honey bee activity was visible. The only signs of bees were a few dead ones caught in spider webs. I decided to return another day and be prepared to do a cutout.
Melanie's hive died out this winter, so she came along to get the brood comb and bees. Newbeek Yann also joined us to get some hands-on experience and to take photos. When we arrived, there was no mistaking - lots of bees were going in and out of the heater enclosure! Their entrance was the hole where the gas line connects to the heater:
We began by gently smoking the colony through their entrance. The heater was under a huge fig tree and screened by other shrubs, so we did some light pruning to give us more room to work:
The heater access panel was frozen shut with rust. Good thing I had my hive tool handy - which by the way, makes for a great pry bar!
I gave the bees a few more puffs of smoke at this point. Overall these bees seemed very docile:
The bees had filled the entire front of the heater enclosure with comb. The comb went around all the wires and gas lines. Note the bright white, newly drawn honeycomb on the right:
There were easily 10,000 bees in this heater. Yann pointed out that this photo would make for a great puzzle!
Melanie and Yann went to work cutting out all the comb. Melanie has a few cutouts under her belt, and is very skilled at cutting and tying the comb into frames. Yann assisted and got some great hands-on experience working with Melanie. The combs were 2-3 feet tall and quickly filled up Melanie's 10-frame box.
The combs went all the way to the top of the heater enclosure, so I removed the top section. Apparently, the bees found the top section to be a good place for a honey super - there was a lot of uncapped nectar and some capped honey there. The last few pieces of brood comb went into deep frames and into my cardboard nuc. We placed the nuc near their old front door:
The remaining bees seemed to like the nuc - as Yann observed, they were pouring into it!
We left the nuc beside the heater to attract the remaining bees. I'll go back for them in a few days. We sealed Melanie's box well and took it to her backyard. Melanie unwrapped the box the following day, and reports that the bees seem fine. We think we got the queen!