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An hour into the Super Bowl Sunday bee rescue, the bees still haven’t left Foothill Feed’s storage garage. The store’s owner is losing patience. “There’s customers coming in, and they’ll get scared,” she tells the Backyard Beekeepers. They nod.

Andrews cuts through the plywood and two layers of drywall every 6 inches, handing chunks to Martha, who uses a brush to gently scrape any bees into a box transformed into a makeshift hive. Martha creates them by grabbing honeycomb pieces that Andrews just ripped out of the wall and placing them inside frames crisscrossed by rubber bands so that each looks like a tic-tac-toe board. Some bees stick to the honeycomb; others flit out of the wall and quickly settle in their new home.

Still, thousands of bees fill the garage, flying outside. Andrews isn’t worried.

“Bees don’t care for humans,” she says. “They just want to gather pollen.”

Yrarrázaval has prepared the smoker but decides not to use it; these bees are cooperating. Instead, her suit-free 6-year-old son Sebastian begins amusing himself with the smoker, oblivious to the bees swarming around him. “Hey, bees, leave me alone,” he says at one point with a giggle. “Stop tickling me! My head is my most ticklish spot!”

Many of the bees are white with drywall dust. “Poor guys,” Andrews whispers, as she yanks out bigger and bigger combs, breaking them in half and handing them to Martha. She places the beeswax in a separate container; that’ll go for their cosmetics.

Finally, they fill all their makeshift hives. Thousands of bees are inside the hives, but thousands more are still outside. Andrews and Martha place the boxes next to the original hole. Next to that opening is a huge mass of bees, one so big that Yrarrázaval easily scoops them with her hands and stuffs them inside the box.

“Okay, we’re done,” Andrews announces, as the Backyard Beekeepers take off their suits. The owner seems incredulous. Thousands of bees still haven’t entered the boxes.

“They’re going to go away,” Andrews explains. “The queen is inside the box. Those bees want to be next to their queen. They might be flying right now, but they’ll be back and inside the box in a couple of hours.”

Yrarrázaval knows why they’re scared. “If they had any African traits, they’d be swarming all over us,” Yrarrázaval says. “We’re ripping apart their nests. But they’re not. They’re not African bees; they’re the good guys.”

The hive at Foothill Feed was a foot wide and 4 feet tall. After going out for lunch, the Backyard Beekeepers returned to find all the bees had slipped into their boxes, just like they predicted. They loaded up the boxes in their SUVs, packed away their tools and headed off to enjoy the beautiful afternoon.

garellano@ocweekly.com

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