Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher, must have known something of the lot of the beekeeper:
Plura sunt quae nos terrent quam quae premunt, et saepius opinione quam re laboramus.
What a relief! We go through this every apres-swarming season: worry then relief. They never let us down, always demonstrating their resilience. Ain’t nature grand?
Of course, they seemed a little crankier this time around. Probably because they have more to protect now. Doesn’t help that these visitors are hanging around, waiting for an opportunity:
Things on the nuc front looking pretty good. They are still drawing out some comb, but just as busy with brood:
Our first call-out
We usually don’t volunteer for swarm collection as we don’t have a lot of equipment (cardboard boxes and step ladders don’t really cut it), especially for high and/or difficult places. But we agreed to one late in June as it only required identification of bee and the home owner had been promised a few visits from other bee association members in the area which never materialized.
I felt relatively confident that we would be looking at tree bees ( see this previous post) when Mr. J described their location over the phone: they were hovering outside an air conditioning unit. Of course, honey bees are likely to find accommodation in such places, but the hovering kind of gave away the game.
Sure enough, there were a cloud of eager male tree bees waiting on the queen. They were high enough up not to cause too much of a ruckus with anyone walking by. And, as the males are stingless, there should not be any cause for concern. I told him that the male mob should be replaced by a somewhat more leisurely stream of workers. By end of summer, he should have his air conditioning unit returned to him not much worse for wear.
OK, so this is where I get a bit judgy, so my apologies to Mr. J. Although the unit had been pretty well taped on a previous occasion, obviously not so well as to keep a determined queen tree bee out. Upon hearing my suggestion that he simply wait the bees out, maybe use them as an educational opportunity for great-grandchildren, he asked if it were possible to wait for thing to quieten down at night and attempt a taping job sooner rather than later.
You can imagine my horror. I didn’t bother to point out the inhumanity of this treatment as I figured that really wasn’t a concern, but instead stressed the danger to himself, up on a ladder at night fooling with a bee’s nest: just one cause for alarm by the bees might result in an accident and sting for him. I think this did the trick, although I can’t swear that as soon as we were pulling out of the drive he wasn’t looking for his duct tape.
OK, so this is actually where I get a bit judgy: looking around his yard (in the truest, and not the American, sense of the word), I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was covered in concrete; in fact, I don’t think there was a blade of grass front or back. There was a pristine, clear-glass greenhouse (why?) and some potted plants about the place (none pollinator-friendly). But everything screamed an aversion to other types of living creatures, plant or animal. It was all too perfect, too controlled, too neat, too fussy. It was easy to see why a bunch of unruly, loud bumbles would be a blot upon the landscape.
You know, as beekeepers, I think we forget how disconnected others can be from the rest of the natural world around us (for we humans are part of that world). We are so plugged into natural cycles, to the behavior of other creatures. Yes, there are beekeepers who can be very controlling, a bit too obsessed with mite counts and honey production. But generally, the bees teach us not just about their world, but of the world that surrounds them and us. I learned from the bees (and from one little robin). I just have to remind myself that not everybody gets the opportunity to have such good teachers. And so, whole worlds, whole universes, pass before them unseen.
All this judgy-ness and trying to see beyond it has been a bit wearing. Now, I must go lie down with a cool compress in a darkened room…
There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than in reality.
See The Latin Library for full text in Latin, and The Stoics, Epistle XIII, for full text in English.
Speaking of control, I think that’s why I don’t want my bees to swarm–I don’t know where they’ll end up and I don’t want them in a concrete jungle, disparately looking for a home or happily moving in, to become spritzed with some or other pesticide. Ugh. Fingers crossed that these bees will be allowed to be bees, at least for a time.
Congratulations on your, ahem, their brood, and don’t those frames just look gorgeous!
Your words are truer to the mark than you know: Mr J had remarked on a similar invasion a couple of years ago (hence the manic duct taping) where an exterminator had been called in and had ‘spread powder’ about the place. One shudders to think about the carnage.
That is a great point Tina, beekeepers who deliberately let their bees swarm are leaving their bees at the mercy of the general public, who tend not to be insect lovers sadly. Hope these tree bumblebees can survive the unfeeling Mr. J
I think most swarming where a beekeeper is complicit is more of a sin of omission than a sin of commission. We endeavor to catch all of our swarms and are happy to gift them to new beekeepers fresh off their courses. If we lived in an urban or built-up area, I would never have had bees. You are more likely to meet with unsympathetic neighbors. I wouldn’t exactly call Mr J ‘unfeeling’: he is a man in his ’80s (looking very good with it) who doesn’t like home invasions of any kind!
So passionate a soliloquy, and none of it about spring watch!
Well, you see, spring watch has ended, and so I must turn my judgy-ness onto other subjects. But really I am trying hard to understand other perspectives….
Love the quote – I will try and remember that. I am also quite judgy (love the word) at times – I think it is natural and, well sometimes you just have to be.
I used to tell students it is human nature to judge, a defence mechanism. It’s whether you can get past the initial judgements to something more reasonable, that’s the important thing. And for me the most challenging….
OH heck, the powder of death…. Yes I judge….
I know, I know. And you (and others) did a very good job of saving an English rat this winter (who was smarter than us all, evading it) who might have otherwise had its own version of powder.
Michelle, Emily, Tina—am I allowed to use the powders and sprays of death when the mating flying ants take over my conservatory and squeeze into my kitchen in a couple of weeks? We are not talking one or two, we are talking a whole city! I am magnanimous to anything in my garden, but my kitchen. We do catch and release spiders, flies, bumbles, honeys that wonder in….
That brood is beautiful! Love the quote as well!
Thanks! Can’t take credit for the brood or the quote but nice that people enjoy both.
My father, who had grown up in the country, took a disposable view of nature and would kill many things that moved if they threatened him or his garden, on the other hand I have also had the flying ant problem and had to react to stop them taking over the house, it’s a difficult one.
Yes, it is a fine line. It is only natural to defend against invasion: birds, insects, every kind of animal will do so at the least provocation. Flying ants taking over the house seems to be the crossing of a line. A friend has recommended boiling water, at least when they are earth-bound…..
A swarm once swarmed above our loo – in the country.. we just had to hang on – in every sense of the word, – and wait until they moved on as the beekeeper had run off with someone, and his wife didn’t know where he was – and asked us to let her know if we ran him to earth !!!
Love your blog…
Oh my. And we thought the bees were the drama queens! Did anyone ever see him again? Thanks for your kind words…