Murphy’s Law has a way of surprising me.
My husband’s business trips are an invitation for things to go wrong. A pickpocket once lifted his iPhone at a Turkish soccer game. My kids and I have grown familiar with the emergency room and poison control.
But this last one. A bee apocalypse. Really, universe?
The swarm formed quickly. In the 15 minutes it took me to leave home, pick up my preschooler and re-enter the driveway, more than 5,000 bees crowded onto a branch in the bush next to the driveway, eye level for my 4-year-old son. We drove through the buzzing cloud into the garage and, ahem, beelined for the house.
Mama Bear didn’t wait around to collect honey.
The easy solution would have been to call my neighbor, who happens to be an exterminator. But I wanted the bees gone, not dead. There was a lesson for us about respecting nature, no matter how sticky.
I’d been in contact with a local beekeeper about a hive I’d discovered weeks earlier in the hollow of our catalpa tree. After my initial panic and self-blaming — our dandelion problem had become a haven for pollinators — I’d realized that bees living 10 feet off the ground weren’t an immediate threat to my family. The beekeeper had visited a couple of times to plan how he’d collect the colony and block off the hive, but he hadn’t acted yet.
The approach differs with a swarm. You’ve got to move fast. Each spring, the queen will take part of her colony on a journey to find a new home. Thousands of bees follow her wherever she lands. A swarm can leave as quickly as it arrives.
A swarm near the ground is a wonderful opportunity for a beekeeper to collect a new colony.
Our bee whisperer came within minutes of my call.
He hopped out of his van in plainclothes and a bucket hat. He set an eight-frame box baited with nectar and a few juveniles below the wriggling mass of bees and began smoking them off the bush.
My son and I watched from the dining room window, mesmerized right along with the bees.
It turns out that the beekeeper and I had similar interests. I’d acted to protect my babies. Canceled our afternoon playdate. Sealed up the house.
He had acted to protect his babies. As someone who had tamed and coaxed and loved these winged workers for a half-century, he trusted what I feared. He knew that smoking the bees, prodding them into a deafening cloud around his head, would help them find the hive.
Incredibly, they did.
The man never flinched. Instead, he indulged all our questions through the open window. He spread the message of the bees.
They’re social creatures. They live by rules. They work hard for their families, their society, and on a larger scale, the Earth.
If we respect them, they respect us. I’m glad that in the process of shielding my family from danger, however minimal, I exposed them to the bees’ larger message.
Follow freelance writer Lindsay Hanson Metcalf on Twitter: @hansonmetcalf