Our visit to Hinesville for Tuesday's job took about seven hours and two hours of driving time. The reason it took so long was because it wasn't a swarm but a newly established colony in the serious construction business. The initial appraisal was that right at the edge of the shingles the bees were able to find an advantage and make entry. With a waiver signed by the owner we proceeded. From a stepladder removing the aluminum face of the eves and removing the facia board behind the aluminum it was possible to see the advantage, there was extensive water damage to the roofing board and joist at their ends. The new roof and aluminum siding did a very nice job of concealing the damage. making the property appear much newer than it was.
Not finding the swarm but instead a constant stream of marching bees, we prepared for an extraction. Ruth and I assembled the bee vacuum in anticipation of dragging these bees from their home. Ruth has jumped into the bee business with both feet, taking recommendations and suggestions from every beekeeper she meets. Sometimes that means my way of keeping bees does not meet her expectations. It's definitely a conversation piece between us. Like they say, "Talk to a dozen beekeepers about beekeeping and you'll hear a dozen different ways to do it." This is the recipe for disagreement and should only be taken a teaspoon at a time with a great deal of honey.
Ruth and the property owner went to pick up an extension a ladder while I sat trying to recover some of the energy wasted in my youth. Once Ruth returned with the extension ladder I began searching for the colony by tracking the marching bees into the cavity of the rafters, however not a bee was found. Ruth went inside the apartment to the crawl spaces to see if she could hear or see bees. I could see the bees also had an entry place into the brick and mortar outside wall. That wall had since been stuccoed but on only the exposed portions of the end wall. Beneath the roof line it remained a brick wall. With judicious focus I devised a plan. To begin we had to break through the concrete sea shell stucco wall from the outside wall, as it appeared the new column was much wider than the original constructed brick. Because the inside wall appeared to be brick and appeared built prior to the current poor standard of hollow bricks for facade used in construction today it was surmised that in renovations plumbing and electrical would have been run on the surface of the brick to reach the inside apartment and later a facade of stucco built to conceal it. Yes, I have lived here for a few years and seen the workmanship of a few different contractors to gain "a feel for things." We needed to look for the bees from the outside surface and look in the spaces that concealed the old work. The first opening would be the wall opposite the roof edge. Dressed in the appropriate white costume under close supervision of Ruth, up the ladder, screw driver, pry bar, five pound hammer and chisel in hand. I admit sometimes I push the limits of my abilities but this makes me feel so alive and I will not push it to the limit, balance and strength are not what they once were.
After the initial opening and making sight of the parade of bees a hand was stuck into the hollow up into the elbow to grasp new honeycomb, but there were no brood, no honey and no pollen. The comb was fresh newly spun and obviously not yet under the visit of the pollen and honey providers. The next opening would be three foot above the first. Breaking through a solidly cemented wall is not an easy task and by the time this was complete Ruth was on the stepladder with the vacuum. Through use of a putty knife and headlamp three long but empty comb were found covered with bees, however there still was no brood, no honey, no pollen. The bees were quite disturbed at this point and even with the thick beekeeper gloves the bees attempted to sting giving up their lives in an attempt to chase "the grumpy old bear" away from the hive. Seriously, these gloves no matter how thick and official do not prevent the occasional determined bee from getting her point across. Somewhere in the back of my mind as a stinging rebuke the word Kevlar® comes to mind. Ruth continued handing be the vacuum hose and the bees could be heard bristling down the spiral black tube in large quantities.
At some point a bee got between my glasses and my face and left a sting that left me a bit wary and looking more like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. Between the two of us and the hours of sticking the vacuum hose and its attachments up to the hilt of our reach, a few more thousand bees were extracted allowing yet only more empty comb to be removed from the fiber stucco backing and the two by four that divided the 16 inch cavity from the next. No brood, no honey, no pollen leaves one wondering "Did we get them all or was this truly an new swarm just setting up house?" When the flow of bees seemed to have halted it was obvious that the entire day was soon setting. A view into the plexiglass cover of the vacuum showed a large number of bees to be taken back to Beeutiful Bees. The tenant renting the apartment was cautiously delighted while snapping a quick picture with a mobile phone, the owner of the building smiled and in appreciation paid us for the gas it took to drive the distance. Ruth sprayed the girls down from a bottle to provide cooling and a drink before they were put into the back of the Expedition for its trip back to "Beefield". Before leaving Hinesville as darkness fell a stop at the local Popeye's to enjoy a meal missed or should I call it brunch? With Ruth behind the wheel taking us back to the 'farm' thoughts of vacuum redesign and where the new hive will be best placed ramble across conversation between the us. Once back in Beefield it was showers and Benadryl and a good nights sleep.