Each year a couple of bee swarms show up at work. Local beekeepers wanted to start charging to catch a swarm. Forget that.
Yet, employees and bees don’t mix well. In fact, a couple of folks are deadly allergic to bee stings. Besides, honey bees are nature’s Cupid and pollinate 75% of plant life, so instead of killing them, I decided to move them myself. The beekeepers had white suits, mesh hats, gloves and smokers. I didn’t have any of that, but I’d watched them before, so I’m an “expert”…
The swarm was about eye level on a beam right above a hydraulic unit.
Since I didn’t have beekeeper equipment, I buttoned my collar, cinched down jacket sleeves and put on gloves. Armed with a cardboard box and a lid, I started toward the clingy, hanging wad of live honey bees. After the first bee accidentally flew into my neck a good ways from the swarm, I pondered the consequences and wished for a meshed beekeeper hood.
Then I had a brain flash epitome! The week before I saw a wedding dress and veil in the Goodwill window! If I bought the veil, then wala, head, neck and face all had instant bee protection!
Then I imagined what I would look like walking around a couple hundred co-workers in a sawmill wearing a wedding veil under a hard hat. Not cool. Whacked out, but not cool! No go Joe on that idea, but still, it could work!
I bravely, or maybe foolishly, depending on who you ask, walked right up to the swarm. I knew a guy who claimed to have been around bees, which probably means he saw an exhibit at the zoo once, but he told me swarming bees are easy to work with, unless your afraid. Bees sense fear he told me and then, they will “tear you up”.
Well, I feared. My hands sweat. My mouth was dry. My heart raced. Breathing was rapid. Seeing those bees in a giant ball, I almost gave in to fear. I glanced to my side and a forklift operator, Jose, was inside a forklift watching, watching from a great distance!
Baby steps forward felt like giant, trampoline leaps. I looked at Jose and he was rolling up the forklift windows. Maybe it was a stroke of courage, or a flash of ignorance, but I stepped up to those bees like a bee whisperer!
I looked back at Jose as if to say, this is OK, right? After all, I was doing this to keep people like Jose from getting stung. There should be hazard pay for mercenary work like this!
Instead, Jose started rubbing his palms together and gave me a big dumb grin, the kind of grin you make when you’re at the zoo and you want the monkeys to swing around hooting and hollering. He gave me a big thumbs up, then started shaking his head yes while motioning with both hands to go ahead, go ahead. I never asked Jose, but I really don’t think he was looking out for my best interest.
When I was within arms reach of the swarm of bees, I remembered that beekeepers always would use a little smoker to temporarily calm the bees down while they brushed them into a container with a giant looking toothbrush. All I had was a cardboard box!
Not wanting to scoop a bee up my sleeve, down my glove, toward my face, or well, just pretty much anywhere on my person, I decided to take the edge of the box and gently scrape along the beam. Worked like a charm! The bees fell off the beam into the box in clumps of moving bee balls.
One of the strays though found its way under the gap up of my hard hat and was buzzing in mad confusion. Houston, we have a problem.
I don’t have a lion’s mane of protection on top of my head anyway. It’s more like a sheered sheep, so I put the box down and backed away waiting for the inevitable moment when the bee Kamikazeed itself right into a bald spot.
When I was far enough away, I pulled off the hard hat and shook it until the bee dropped to the ground. I started to let it go, but stomped the living daylights out of it instead.
Jose was still watching, so after I got rid of the bee, I shook my hard hat over and over and stomped the ground repeatedly like there were tons of bees in my hard hat. It’d make me look better in front of the guys when he told the story later, you know?
So for Jose’s benefit, I pointed to all the areas I had stomped. From the safety of the forklift, the scoundrel was clearly unimpressed with my manliness. He just shook his head back and forth as if to say so–so, or “asi–asi” in his case.
Going back to the swarm, some of the bees were starting to climb out of the box and a host of bees were flying around. Using the same approach, but not caring a hoot about Jose or the half-dozen other guys now watching, I picked up the box and scraped as many of the bees into the box as possible. I hoped I got the big mama queen bee in the middle of them all, but unless I saw one wearing a little crown, I wouldn’t know how to spot her.
There were more bees on the back side of the beam and with my gloved hand I scooped as many as I could in the box. Some stragglers started buzzing around my face, so I closed the lid with about two-thirds of the bees inside.
Jose gave me an “I’m impressed look” as I walked by, until I reached up to open his forklift door. His eyes got as big as paper plates at the county dump! He flipped the door lock and zoomed away. I yelled after him, “Pollo grande!” (“Big chicken” in Spanish).
I let the bees go at the edge of the woods 20 acres away. I felt bad, but went back to dispose of the remaining bees with a can of Raid so no one was stung.
Jose, like a bad dream, was back to watch, thoroughly enjoying that I had to run like a madman after each frontal assault on the remaining, now angry, bees.
After several poison attacks, they were in bee heaven while the majority, and hopefully the queen, were set free.
With nothing more to see, Jose actually got busy as a bee working….OK, that’s a huge exaggeration, but he went back to work….no, he went back to moving like a turtle!
I’ve been thinking. I still need to buy the Goodwill wedding veil. Next time I can put it on Jose while I sit in in the forklift and he catches all the bees…I should’ve thought of that to start with!