Monday, May 7, 2012

Attack of the Bees

There's been a lot recently on Colony Collapse in honey bees. You can read one article here.

I should start by saying I'm terrified of bees. For good reason. They're my worst allergy. I carry an epi-pen with me in case I get stung. It started when I stepped on a bee at five years of age. Not much of a reaction that time, but mom had to dry lots of tears. Then, I got stung on the arm when I was 8. I swelled from the shoulder to the elbow. After that, I was given the epi-pen just to be safe. A person can make it the rest of their life without being stung, right? We camp and hike and backpack so it's better to be safe in those out of the way places.

We were thirty minutes from guests arriving for a BBQ. My husband goes out to the yard to fire up the grill and returns to announce, "Honey, you have to come see this. I've never seen so many bees in my life!"


Naturally, my curiosity won out over my caution. I stepped outside to see a swarm on the tree.

I ran back inside and shut the door. Then I ran around shutting all the windows. As I sobbed and mumbled things incoherently.
I found a number for a Bee Keeper online. Even with my fear of bees, I didn't want to destroy them if they were a swarm of honey bees. Killer bees? So. Dead. But honey bees are necessary. I phoned the company. The poor man who answered the phone had to say to me, "Ma'am. I need you to take a deep breath and calm down because I can't understand your address." Oops. After calming myself, I was able to give him the necessary information.

The man who showed up strolled into the yard and up to the bees without a suit on. He stuck his head right up there in the swarm.

"These bees are nice," he called out to us as we hovered at the back of the yard.

By now, company had arrived. The women joined me in the house, watching through the windows. The men gathered in the yard to watch the Bee Keep. He grabbed the tree and gave it a shake. Bees scattered to reveal a large queen. The man put the queen in a box. The remaining bees swarmed into the box.

Before he left, he let the men each hold the box of bees. My husband said it was heavier than he expected - like lifting a ten pound weight.

Our party was a "hit" and has been the talk of our friends for years.

"Remember that time Erik and Jenn had that swarm of bees in their yard?"

It's important to call in an expert who can determine the kind of bee and then take appropriate action. Killing a honey bee swarm is not appropriate action when we're dealing with colony collapse at the moment. Twice in the past month, I've watched the City of Burbank deal with the bees harshly without calling in an expert to assess the situation and decide if the bees were honey or killer bees. Not appropriate. It was less money for the Bee Keeper than it was for an exterminator. It was kinder to the environment, to the bees and to a local farmer who got the new hive.

Have you ever seen a swarm of bees? Ever had one in your yard?

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