Yes, a live bee colony lives inside the store.
There is a new specialty supermarket in town and all that buzzing you hear isn’t from people talking about the newly renovated space on Washington Street, it’s the hive of bees that make their home inside the store.
That’s right, a fully functioning hive is nestled in the corner on the eastern side of the store and they go about their business completely visible to shoppers.
James Mcdonald is the beekeeper who takes care of the hundreds of buzzing insects and oversaw the exhibit during its installation at Lazy Acres.
No stranger to the craft, Mcdonald owns Encinitas Bee Co. where he responds to reports of swarms around the county then safely relocates the colonies to better living environments in San Diego. He doesn't believe in killing even a single bee.
We asked James if the bees are content being inside their new location.
"Those bees are way happier than they would be in the wild," he said. "They get food, shelter, heat, and protection from predators. There is a whole controversy over beekeeping being cruel to the bees, This may be true for large commercial apiaries, but the average backyard beekeeper loves their bees. And go out of their way to make sure their every need is met."
The Lazy Acres colony is not a captive one. In fact, they are free to come and go as they please through a transparent chute that goes from the hive case and up through the roof and out into the open air.
The company has planted vegetation close to the building and surrounding areas so the bees don't have to fly far to get nourishment before heading back into the supermarket apiary. But as they get used to their new home, keepers put a tray of sugary liquid where the bees can access it to keep healthy and strong.
James says he checks on the bees about twice a month, but store staff call him if there are any problems plus "I just like looking at them," he remarks.
Undoubtedly, you have come across a swarm sometime in San Diego, James professional advice is to leave them alone and call a professional service like his.
"Stationary swarms are normally are just resting and move on their way within a few days," he explains. "But established colonies need to be dealt with. Preferably by a live bee removal company like me, or a hobbyist that knows what they are doing."
Honey will eventually be made in the hive, but due to restrictions, it cannot be sold for consumption in the store. However, beauty products like soap can be made from the sweet byproduct.
Lazy Acres began reconstruction on the old Albertsons space in late 2016. This location at 422 W Washington, on the border of Mission Hills just across from Vons, will be the fourth store in the Lazy Acres franchise, the first being in Santa Barbara, and the second and third in Long Beach and Encinitas.
As for the bees, they are adjusting nicely to their new home with James' and the store's help, "These have to be the most looked after bees in the world," James said.
Lazy Acres Mission Hills/Hillcrest will officially open to the public on Saturday, August 26.