LANESBOROUGH — The demolition of a dilapidated home on South Main Street unexpectedly became a honeybee rescue mission over the weekend when workers uncovered a hive containing up to 150,000 honeybees.
Michael Maloy, of Donovan Construction Co. of Pittsfield, said he opened up an 8-foot by four-foot section of wall inside 237 South Main St. to find "the entire thing was a honeycomb."
Thousands of bees filled the air.
"A couple of my guys got stung," Maloy said. "We probably looked like a bunch of clowns running away down the street."
But thanks in part to readily available information about the importance of honeybees and increasing threats to populations and health, Maloy immediately "wanted to save them," and put the job on hold.
"I wouldn't doubt that back in the day people would have just continued on [with the demolition], but everybody has information nowadays about how we need bees and they're increasingly rare."
He called SwarmBusters, the bee removal and rehabilitation arm of Williamstown resident Barbara Couture's Bridges Road business, Karuna Homestead.
Turns out, it's a good thing he did.
Couture and two helpers spent all of Sunday and part of the Fourth of July holiday removing the hive.
"We discovered that they were queenless," Couture said. "Which means they would have died very soon. At this time of the year, worker bees only live a couple of weeks, probably six. In order to perpetuate, they have to have their queen, and she also directs the activities of the colony.
"We brought the bees back and introduced them to some of our existing colonies, so they will now have a queen," she said. "It will help our colonies become stronger and bigger and give all those bees a home. They are already pollinating now."
Couture said her homestead presently houses nine active hives. She is vice president of Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association, and previously saved hives in Southern Vermont and Eastern New York.
Bee products — honey, wax, propolis, wax and queen bees — are sold by Couture at her homestead, where she also raises goats and chickens.
More than 20 pounds of honey were contained within the honeycombs of the hive rescued from the Lanesborough home.
"It was pretty cool to watch," Maloy said. "Quite the project. They had a couple people in bee suits cutting out the comb by hand, sweeping the bees with brooms and boxing them into crates. I've never seen [a hive] that large, taking up an entire wall."