Our Experience With Bee-z-z-z

by Edna Fay Zimmerman | Apr 1, 2023 | 0 comments

“Woof, woof, woof!” The gruff barking of our Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd announced the arrival of an unfamiliar vehicle.

“Who came?” I asked my younger brother. A quick look out the window had revealed a gray Ford pickup.

“Oh, I think it’s the honeybee people,” he answered evasively as he hurried to the door.

“The who?” But he was already outside. Why bother answering my question twice? I quickly finished the dishes and hurried outside.

Unknown to me, my dad had called this couple to come and check out our nest. They were starting a collection of honeybees.

Back in the 1800’s our place was an apple orchard, so we have quite a few old buildings. One of them, somewhat like a house, was used to store and dry apples. The left side of that building had a honeybee nest.

We left them alone for awhile until Dad decided it was time to take some of the old buildings down—starting with that particular one. Not wanting a bee attack when the building came down, he called these people to take care of them.

Bill and Debra were an older couple and full of fun. They looked at the nest and decided it was from the bottom of the first floor to halfway up the second floor. A saw, a sweeper, and miscellaneous other things were then hauled onto the forklift platform.

Bill was enthused. “This is great, having a fork lift! Most other times we have had to use a ladder. Once you’ve tried to hold a bulky sweeper with one hand and suction bees with the other on top of a rickety ladder, you’ll realize why I don’t get excited over those jobs!”

Once they had their “space suits” on (as my brother called them), they were set to go. Bill climbed up and began by cutting the boards away from the front of the nest while Debra stayed down for a bit to hand things up as he needed them.

After all the boards were out on the ground, Debra climbed up to help. Meanwhile, we all backed up closer to our house and sat back to watch.

All became silent except for the hum of the sweeper as they attacked the nest.

“That looks kind of weird!” one of my siblings commented. “All those bees crawling on their suits or swarming around them, and they don’t swat at them or even act scared!”

Suddenly Bill’s voice rang out clear as a bell across the quiet air. “Yeow!” he yelled. He slapped his elbow and rubbed it as if the harder he rubbed, the more the pain would lessen.

“Did he get you?” Dad asked, as we all burst out laughing.

“Yeah,” came the reply. “And it’s not funny either!” he added with a chuckle.

We were told before they had started that the bees can get them through their thick “armor” if it is bent, such as at the elbow or knee. Evidently one had found its chance!

After a few hours of work, they had the majority of the group. “The rest are flying around right now,” Debra explained, “but at night they will all come back and crowd in a ball in a corner because they don’t know what else to do. We’ll be back tomorrow to get those.”

They worked at bringing everything down off the platform while we went to take a look. They had vacuumed the bees into three small round cages that were approximately 12 inches tall. The tops and bottoms were made of wood, but the sides were wire mesh, so we could easily see the bees. The wood and mesh were connected with a strip of wide black tape.

Seeing us peering at the bees, Bill asked, “You smell bananas? When bees get really mad, they give off a pheremone that smells like bananas. These seem a little more good-natured than some, so it’s not quite so strong, but it’s definitely there.”

We put our noses as close to the cage as we dared, then nodded in agreement.

He continued, “You can put your finger or even your whole hand right up against the cage, and they can’t get you.”

We stared at him, eyes wide with disbelief, but then cautiously tried it. Sure enough—they didn’t sting! Shaking the cages in search of the queen proved unsuccessful, but having them get real “buzzed-up” made it fun.

At last Bill and Debra got all the tools and the bees loaded. Rolling down the cover on the bed of the truck reminded Debra of something else. “Hey, Bill,” she said, “remember the great escape?”

“Of course,” he replied instantly.

Turning to Dad, he began, “The one summer it was really hot, and after we came back from one of these jobs, Debra opened this cover while I got some things together in the cab. She promptly slapped it back down and hollered to me that ‘the bees are out.’ Of course, I didn’t believe her, so I went back to look for myself. Sure enough, it had been hot enough in the bed to melt the tape away from the edges, and they were all flying around in there. And, of course, they had to be one of the angriest sets of bees we had gotten in a while. I can laugh now, but I definitely couldn’t then!” he ended, joining us in a good laugh.

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