September 4, 2014

Funny Bee Story

It's been a few years since we've had honey bees at our place.  We've tried three times.  Two were bought from the store and the third swarm adopted us.  But I think that we don't have a warm enough place for them because every winter they die.

That's not the funny part.

The first time we tried honey bees on our property, we let our neighbors know.  Not all the neighbors, as required by state law, just the neighbors we know and talk to every once in a while.  Bees travel up to a mile for their pollen, so I suppose we should have talked to a lot more people.  But I figure they wouldn't know my bees from any others out there.  It's not like they have an ID bracelet that says "If found return to Brooks' Hobby Farm."

One Saturday morning, shortly after the first hive of bees arrived, the phone rings.  I answer and the lady says, "Hi.  I'm your neighbor on the north side." (Not a neighbor I usually talk with and therefore didn't know about the bees.)  She continues, "Lola said you guys got honey bees and I think they may be moving into our attic."  (Lola is our wonderful neighbor and probably mentioned it in passing.)  I replied, "Yes, we got honey bees.  Why do you think they are moving into your attic?"

I should note that in my professional career I deal with angry and frustrated people on a daily basis.  After 15 years of trial and error (a lot of trial and error), I have learned how to respond to any unknown entity without 1) being defensive; or 2) revealing anything but simple facts.  I think those are really important tack-ticks when working with neighbors regarding bees, pets, fences, trees, noise or anything else, ever.

Anyway, she asked "Do you have all your bees?"  That caused me a pause.  A hive of honey bees is like 30,000 bees.  Do have them all?  Well, let me go count them and see.  All I could say was, "I think so."

She proceeded to tell me that she was seeing one or two bees fly into and out of the attic frequently for the past few days.  She was concerned that the bees were slowly moving into her attic.  Again she asked if I was sure I had all my bees.  I replied that I would go check.  However, I told her, bees don't move homes like that.  If a hive gets too large for its home, an entire swarm of about 10,000 bees leaves the hive.  The swarm moves, all together, while drones go look for a new home.  When a drone finds a new home, the entire swarm moves in all at once.

We purchase only about 10,000 bees to start the hive. We only had them for a few days at that point, so it was highly unlikely that a swarm had left.  But since she was clearly frustrated and thinking the invasion was my fault, I said I would go check the hive and call her back.

About 10,000 bees - ready to move into the hive
I'm not sure what she thought I would do.  But what I did do was go down and listen to see if there was a lot of buzzing coming from the hive.  There was and a few bees were coming and going to gather food.  Did we have them all?  I don't know.  But odds were that we did. I call the lady back and said yes, we have all our bees.  Thankfully, she accepted that answer.  She didn't have too, but she did.  Her tone because a bit desperate.  She wanted to know what she should do.

I get it.  Most people have a healthy fear of bees.  The sound of buzzing is used in horror movies because it makes humans react and get agitated.  But the truth is that bees (not wasps) are not aggressive.  Honey bees are docile unless threatened.  Yes, swatting your hand at a bee is aggressive and it may react.  Seriously, if someone started smacking you for no apparent reason while you were walking down the sidewalk minding your own business, you would probably react too.  And truth be told, if a swarm of honey bees takes up residence in your attic, they will do a massive amount of damage!

I gave the woman a few numbers to call.  I let her know that she should work with some professionals to get the swarm out of the attic and moved into a proper home.  Perhaps I scared her a little, telling her about how much damage the weight of their honey could cause.  But she was happy to have some people to call for help.

Ok, maybe that story isn't actually funny.  I just can't get over "Do you have all your bees?"

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