Sunday, February 15, 2009

Honey, Please

We went back outside today to finish up our garden box. We planted some beets and a few lettuces. Chris and Drew moved on to other projects and Emma and I moved on to the swings. She swung higher and higher, making the swingset creak and moan.
Then I noticed another sound.
A humming, buzzy sound.
And lo, I saw, verily, rising over the top of our neighbor's fence, a great swarm of bees.
Em slowed down her swinging at my command and the two of us watched the cloud of bees and wondered what had caused it. I yelled for Chris and Andrew to come and see it. About the time Andrew rounded the corner into the back yard, though, I noticed that the swarm was moving toward the swings and, well, Emma and me.
So then I calmly told the kids to get in the house now.
By the time Chris came around to the back yard, the kids were in the house and I was up out of the swings and he and I looked at those bees moving closer to our swingset and wondered what was going on.
At first, I'd thought maybe our neighbor was harvesting some of their honey, but his family was at church. And the only thing I could think of that had made a stir in our yard was the creaking of the swings.
"How odd that they'd be angered by that noise," I thought.
And then, I spotted it.
In a dead branch, hanging right over the play set.
A dripping, humming, angry-looking swarm. Look closely. Do you see that black mass up in the dead branch? Yeah. I didn't either at first.

It was positively apocalyptic.
And I think our swinging disturbed it.
And we went inside.

This afternoon, when our neighbor came home, we asked him over to check out the swarm. He said it was definitely a swarm, not some kind of colony in the tree. That whole mass is just made up of bees!

It's a little early for them to be swarming like that, he said. But it's a sure sign that spring is here. Oh, we might see another cold snap or two, but generally, once the bees swarm, winter's done.

I guess he had split a couple of his hives, looking to increase their honey production a bit. He and his wife are looking to start supplementing their income by selling their honey. Which sounds fine to me. I'm happy to help them out there. I like to buy honey and I like to eat honey.

So, he brought over a bee box and his smoker, climbed up close to the branch and smoked all those bees out till they were happy and a little high (that's kind of what smoke does to bees), and he shook the branch with all his might. Once the queen landed in the box, the whole mess of bees started crawling right in through the opening. And he puffed a little extra smoke at them, just for good measure. To keep them happy.

It kind of reminded me of that awful scene in the Indiana Jones movie (The Crystal Skull one) with the giant ants. Shudder. If you haven't seen that one yet, just remember to close your eyes when you see giant ants. You won't be sorry.

I'm still not sure if our swinging noises angered a swarm that was already there, or if it was just coincidence that we happened to be right there when a swarm occurred. I didn't want to ask because my neighbor already thinks we're kinda funny city folks. Even though we live in the city, technically.
Regardless of the cause, though, it's something that you sure don't see every day. And it added a bit of excitement to our weekend.

DAILY BLISS: a round of mini golf to celebrate excellent report cards


claibornes corner said...

I'm sure glad you have a neighbor to get those bees - I'm sure if I had been there I would have been stung! Remember last summer when they went up my britches!

60ish and Glad said...

I am not exactly sure what a swarm is compared to a colony but do you recall the swarm of bees in our tree at the Vineyard subdivision home? It cost us about $100 to pay someone to get rid of them. What a unique experience. I am glad the chickens in the your other neighbor's yard did not get stung...may have affected the eggs. (Just kidding)

Mary said...

My dad kept bees for a while and I remember them swarming like that in a little fruit tree near the hive. It is really the pictures and I hope they never cross the fence again. I was never stung by a honey bee but my sister stepped on one once and she couldn't walk for a while.

Amy said...

That is so cool! Of course, I'm pretty sure that it could only happen to you. A swarm of bees and you just happen to live by a beekeeper...too funny.

Liz said...

Holy CRAP! Those were so some scary looking pictures! What a good neighbor you have!