‘A swarm of Biblical proportions: The painful reality of being a novice beekeeper’

Aug 05, 2020
This community writer learned the hard-way when it comes to beekeeping. Source: Getty.

This last week, we decided to get up close and personal with our lovely bees. You’ll remember we’ve had a hive of Native STINGLESS Australian bees for about a year, and so it’s time to add on a chamber so they can produce us the yearly one cup of the reportedly magnificent honey.

Now, with the cooler temperatures, we decided the time was right. We had added the “honey pot” a few weeks ago where the bees would be encouraged to store their excess, so we got all set, licking our lips, to see how things were going.

We also planned, while we were in there, to implement some small but brilliant (at least we thought) modifications that would benefit all involved. That’s as far as our planning got.

If we were to do a retake, we might have discussed questions like “What will we do if they don’t want us to change their environment, and what might that action look like?’

But no, after all, we’re really veteran experts by now, don’t you think? I’ve been on that many chat lines and I can almost hear the applause of the masses as we report to the amazed veterans how we changed things up.

It was cold, (about 60 degrees or 20 C if you’re here in Australia). Bees are awake at that temp but like many of us, they can’t really fly till they enjoy the warmth of the sun for awhile.

We took off the lid, saw a few bees in the glass jar, obviously doing their honey-making thing. All’s well. We pried off the jar, and…….

You know those horror movies where Pandora’s box is opened and the evil black hoards pour out? In the instant while we stood, jaws gaping, that’s what happened. THOUSANDS of bees poured out in the blink of an eye, covering the entire hive. There was no way we were going to get them ‘back in the box’ so to speak.

It was in that moment that we realised that we had NO IDEA what to do. We ‘brushed’ at them but they’re so fragile, the results were not exactly what anyone wanted, except that some kind of alarm was sent out, and even more bees swarmed out of the hive. Keep in mind, they weren’t stinging, but they had decided to implement the “overwhelm the enemy” approach, quickly gaining access to every opening we presented, such as shirt collars, sleeves, trouser legs, eyes, ears, nose and mouth. At least they were still grounded because of the cold, and so could only get to us on their tiny feet. One of us (I won’t say who) came up with a brilliant idea: let’s get the hair drier and blow the critters off.

Some of you sharper ones out there may have already worked out what happened next.

In about three seconds, the bees, as they warmed up, began to try their appendages, with some calling out (I’m sure), “Hey! I can fly!” Suddenly, as if on command, they ALL took to the air, recalculate their targets (us) and came at us in a cloud of Biblical proportions.

We had them all over us. In our ears, hair, clothes, you name it. It was hard not to panic, and well, maybe we did a little; creating a Bee dance of our own. We ran back inside swatting and brushing. Forget the “Oh, aren’t they sweet!” observations. Now it was “Get them OFF me NOW!!”

Eventually, we were clear, mostly … except for one little girl (they’re mostly girls you know, about 90% of the hive of thousands; doing most of the work and hoping to be Queen someday. Perhaps not so different from our species eh?).

Anyway, she had hitchhiked on me and into my closet, and somehow as I’d changed into a new set of slacks, had ended up on the inside of my waistband. That may have been all right, but when I leaned over to brush my teeth, she was getting squished and had no choice… The bite she gave me, I assumed was a scratchy tag tickling me, but the investigation with my hand cost her her life. Sad for her but nothing at all for me.

So what’s the point, you ask?

PLAN your actions. Trust in the wisdom of others who have more experience and think things through before something swarms out of hand. Need a proof test? Proverbs 14:12, There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.

Fortunately for us, that “death” part only included the poor bees, but the point is taken.

Have a BEElessed week!

Epilogue, we got the lid back on the box but only after they’d all gotten cold again and headed back to bed.

Pray with us as the entire world tries to ‘get the bees back in the box’ with this Corona thing. You may want to sit down and do some planning yourselves.

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