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.