Monday, June 21, 2010

On Saturday morning, we looked out into our yard and saw hundreds of bees. In the sunlight, they looked almost metallic, whizzing through the air like tiny spaceships. For some reason, they had decided to gather on a slim branch at the top of one of our trees. As they gathered, they clumped and their collective weight pulled the branch down toward the grass.

I thought at first, they had come to harvest nectar from a particularly great bunch of flowers. I thought perhaps one bee had taken a sweet sip and then sped back to the hive to do a little "great grub," dance and everyone followed him back for a picnic. But at day's end, they had stopped flying. They looked like they were settling in.

A bunch of bees on a low hanging branch is not a great match for a kid with a frisbee. I herded my son indoors and typed "Silverlake bee rescue" into my computer. (Isn't it amazing that we can find almost anything in just few keystrokes? I continue to be overwhelmed by all the information out there, but also so incredibly grateful for it. A conundrum of our time, I suppose.)

The next morning, Vincent showed up. He's a bee guy. He brought a mesh hat and gloves that fitted tightly over his shirt up to his biceps. He also brought a cardboard box and a mini shop vac. He would collect the bees and take them home to his collection of hives where, this year, he'd already harvested five thousand pounds of honey. Holy smokes!

Vincent let us stay in the yard while he suited up. He told us that our bees, if left alone, would start to build combs in the tree. He looked around our yard and said it was a good bee yard. He told us that once he'd fallen twelve feet from a ladder and landed on his back to protect the clump of bees he was holding. He told us that the bees in our tree were in their most docile state. And then he told us to go inside and watch through the window.

From our vantage point atop the washer and dryer, we watched while Vincent sprayed the bees with sugar water (to keep them busy) and then carefully climbed the ladder and clipped the branch holding the largest cluster of bees. I had a momentary fear that when he snipped it, the branch would swing upwards and launch it's buzzing cargo into the neighbor's upstairs window, but Vincent held it still and worked the clipper with his elbow. The cluster of bees looked like a bunch of grapes clipped from the vine. Vincent settled them carefully into the cardboard box and secured the lid with duct tape. The bees outside the box took to the air.

"They're going to land again," Vincent assured us. "They want to be in the box, too."

We ran upstairs to press our noses against the window for a better view. The bees did want to be in the box. They wanted to stay together. In a matter of minutes the screened end of the box was covered with bees. Using a little whisk broom, Vincent gently swept these bees into a second box. Those bees that evaded the broom were collected with the mini shop vac.

In less than ten minutes the bees were gone.

Vincent removed his mesh hat and gestured for us to come out. He showed us photos of bees nesting in hot tubs and bird houses and even in the head of a fiberglass snowman.

"I am totally writing about this in in my journal," Theo said.

Me, too.


Elizabeth said...

Wild, wild, wild -- and what a perfect adventure for children. I'm envious -- sort of.

Denise Emanuel Clemen said...

How wonderful that you and your kids got to witness this. I'm definitely envious.