When remodelers came to work on a basement apartment, the first thing they noticed was the interesting view from the boarded up living room window - a colony of about 50,000 honeybees busy at work.
When bees decide that their colony is too crowded, the old queen bee will fly out of the hive with about half of the colony's bees and form a swarm, "a big ball of bees," while scout bees go out to find a warm, cozy, dark place where they can build a new home.But rarely, according to veteran beekeeper Wayne Kartchner, will they establish their colony between glass and plywood as this colony did in an unoccupied apartment at 1756 West and 400 North. Kartchner estimated by the size of the bees that the colony had been there for about a year. Clad in coveralls, helmet, gloves and three pairs of socks, he set out to relocate the bees once again.
For those who have experienced the pain of a bee sting, the prospect of destroying the home of 50,000 honeybees on a Friday afternoon would not sound like fun. But for Kartchner, who lets the bees crawl on his hands and face, it's exciting. He has the process down to such a science that he doesn't even bother putting on his gloves until he knows that the bees "are really mad."
But Kartchner also knows it won't be long before the bees are angry.
To prevent injury to others, Kartchner locked the apartment door, trapping the bees inside. From inside the apartment he then opened the window and calmed the bees with the smoke produced by burning pine cones. The smoke masks the alarm smell produced by bees when threatened and prevents the bees from signaling to one another of potential danger.
Although the volume and tone of the "buzz" increased, the bees remained confused and Kartchner was able to remove the honeycomb piece by piece and secure it in a wooden crate. Kartchner will return after all the bees have congregated in their new location and take the hive back to Farmington to join his 13 other colonies.
Soon the plywood will be taken off of the window and the apartment's new tenants will never know who the previous occupants were.