Monday, June 21, 2010

Once in a lifetime

I'm not exactly an apiarist, but via my family I've had some contact with bees for most of my life. We've got lots of stories; how Grandma swelled up after mowing in front of the hives and getting stung too much, how my aunt and uncle used our kitchen table to extract honey before they gave it to us and it was so encrusted in sticky that we couldn't believe it was the same one when it went into the kitchen. My mother has gone along on many projects with my dad, but honey extraction is one of the few that puts that "never again" look on her face. (I think only the chicken butchering was worse.) I even had a swarm of bees move into the wall of my room when I was a kid. They hummed me to sleep at night, and in the summer when it got hot, honey ran down the wallpaper. But today I saw something I've never seen before, and may never again: bees in the act of swarming.
We've always had lots of bees at our house, something I take some pride in when honey bees are vanishing all over the place. (Completely misplaced pride, by the way. I don't raise the bees, so it's either complete luck that they are here, or someone is raising them very close to our property.) I took the presence of the bees and the frogs and toads in our yard as a good sign, since all three species are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human error. Our house must be some kind of oasis. So, today, as Kate and I stood at the kitchen sink cleaning strawberries, I wasn't surprised to hear her say, "Mommy, look at the bees." Bees are not rare around here, but these bees were not out for an afternoon stroll. They were flying much too high off the ground, and there were way too many for a usual afternoon. I got a little suspicious and wandered outside to see what was up. I watched them begin to swarm together on a tall weed outside my bedroom window. It was like they just melted from a big cloud into a smaller and smaller blob until they looked...well, like this.

When they looked like they had settled in for the duration, I started making phone calls. I started with my mom, (she knows everything right?) Then I called my Aunt who is currently raising bees, and while she's too far away to get to these guys before they fly away, is a great source of info. Then I moved on to the county extension office. They are a reliable source of info on most subjects. They gave me a phone number, which I called and left a message. If anyone is interested in these guys, they should call me back. What I'm looking for is a beekeeper in the area who will come and take these guys and put them in a hive. If that doesn't happen, they will probably find a place of their own in the wild. In the mean time, Kate and I are continuously peeking out the bedroom window at them. According to Aunt Hazel, they may fly the coop at any time, or spend the night there. Personally I'm hoping they bug out (hee hee) before my husband gets home and I have to have the "why we shouldn't spray them with raid" discussion. Obviously he doesn't have quite the same views as I do about bees.

And then, as if the day wasn't exciting enough, I was sneaking another peep at the bees when this strolled through my back yard:

That is a wild turkey; a tom from what I could see, just wandering through my back yard like he did it every day. (Maybe he does. This is my day off, maybe everyday while I'm at work is like this; bees and turkeys and such, but I doubt it.)

So, including the peck and quarter of strawberries now freezing in the basement, it's been a banner day 'round here; probably not to be repeated in my lifetime, and as a proud mom I can't help but point out that it was Kate who spotted the bees.

Incidentally and in the spirit of honesty, I will tell you that I left out the family story where I stepped on a bee when I was about 7, got stung, and screamed so loud and long that the neighbors showed up to see who was killing me. That story didn't seem to fit the vein of my narrative somehow.


Anonymous said...

Wow! that is so cool! All of it, the turkey, the bees, neato! Though I sure would have been creeped out by the bees in such numbers. I have friends up north in Thompson who have hives, if you ever need another beekeeper contact.

Diana said...

This is absolutely the coolest thing I've heard in ages. I'm very pro-bee in the abstract, being fond of honey and also of pollination in general, but face-to-face with The Swarm, I'd probably still be twitching.