Back to Home Page

Bees - Ambassadors of

The Good Life


Incredible Photo - compliments of Shaun

As our busy lives proceed from day to day we hardly take notice of how impersonal our lives have become – until some event snaps us out of the norm. Such an event could be as simple as an unexpected phone call.

Technology has made our lives easier and perhaps more efficient, but in terms of inter-human contact, it takes a toll. We can tank up our vehicles without a word to the store clerk. Drive up banking requires little more than the handless handshake, i.e. H.A.N.D. (Have a Nice Day). If that is too much contact, we can choose internet banking. Self-serve check out has taken shopping to a new low level of inter-human contact. But if being amongst people is still too much, there is internet shopping. Our daily lives have become more efficient, but they are lacking inter-human contact.

After my usual Tuesday morning rounds through the beeyards I had a telephone message – a swarm call. Being rather late in the season for swarms I expected this to be a false alarm. I expected the usual…

“The bees are everywhere, they’ve gone completely crazy and if we don’t do something soon they’ll bite my children and my dog. How soon can you get here?” To which I generally respond with a series of questions to determine whether or not we are truly dealing with bees. Education, being an important part of the social responsibility of the beekeeper, I respond with: “The bees are not likely to be threatening. Nothing about bee behavior is random or arbitrary. Everything is purposeful and directed to the ultimate survival of the colony. Oh yes, as for the bees themselves, they won’t bite – they have no teeth. Furthermore, they rarely sting unless the colony is threatened.”

But this telephone call was different. I knew right away that we were dealing with a swarm of bees, not wasps, hornets or yellow jackets, and I also knew that the bees had found a friendly place in the universe for their new home. I got my gear together and headed out the door. When I arrived I found two homeowners absorbed in observation and awe of one of nature’s most fantastic spectacles. Bobbie was taking it in, and Shaun was doing the same and also photographically documenting the event. His pictures are extraordinary. We watched together as the swarm compressed into an organized march toward their new home. In thermodynamic terms one might suggest the colony was reducing its entropy. When most of the bees settled in to their new home, a beautiful barn wood box with two convenient knot holes, I began scooping them, one handful at a time, into a nuc (a 5 frame hive used for starting new colonies of bees). We were probably dealing with 10,000 bees or more so this took several handfuls. I made a quick scan of the nuc and found the queen had indeed been transferred, but she seemed rather lifeless. She appeared to have been sandwiched between the nuc’s lid and the nuc itself. This was unfortunate, but I placed her in the nuc and hoped for the best. Soon we saw a line of bees at the entrance of the nuc fanning to indicate to the remaining bees that the queen was in the nuc and this was their new home. Bobbie, Shaun and I found plenty of time to talk about the bees, about honey wine, goat’s milk and other interests. Later that evening I moved the nuc into one of my beeyards. I inspected the nuc the next day and found no dead queen, however I placed a frame of eggs and brood from another colony in the nuc just in case the colony needed to raise a new queen.

Last night Bobbie, Shaun and I met again, at Niwot Market’s “Picnic on the Patio”, where I served Medovina by the glass to accompany the wonderful culinary magic served by Elsie every Thursday evening. Thunderclouds were threatening rain and kept many of the usual patrons at home. A good friend, John, was in Colorado for a short visit, and he stopped by to say hello and to enjoy some mead. Since it was a slow night I decided to join Bobbie, Shaun, John and Jude at the dinner table. We sat outdoors, under an umbrella. And soon it did start to sprinkle, then rain. For the next hour or better we conversed and discovered the ways in which our pasts were connected. We were enjoying life and hardly noticed that while our table, food and mead were perfectly dry, our backsides were getting absolutely drenched. I can’t remember the last time I sat in the rain and enjoyed it, but there is a remote childhood memory indicating I had done so. In any case, for a brief evening, the bees had taken each of us out of our busy, impersonal, tech-laden lives, and had afforded us a slice of The Good Life.