They came in as a plague, a swarm, thousands of them filling the air, circling, alighting. The breeze was thick with the humming of their wings. Awestruck, and not a little bit intimidated, I hid out in the sunroom, snapping pictures through the window, hoping they wouldn’t turn on the nearby dogs and horses. Slowly, as more and more of them landed in a clump and showed no outward signs of aggression, I cautiously approached the tree where they had amassed. As I mastered my nerves, I walked directly underneath the seething cluster, holding my camera inches from the roiling bodies of the insects, fascinated.
They were honeybees, I could see when I got closer, not wasps or other stinging pests. They were of the sort that has been mysteriously disappearing, dying out, baffling scientists and concerning agriculturalists. I was glad to see that this little assembly had survived and set off to found a new colony. Unfortunately, they had picked a bad place to do it. I’ve heard stories of bees making homes in people’s houses, infesting so badly that honey oozes from cracks under the windows and whole walls have to be ripped out to remove the invaders. Then, too, once they are settled the bees become aggressive and will violently defend their territory. A call to the local Nature Center informed us that we had at most a couple of days before the insects changed from docile busybodies to vicious guard dogs.
A beekeeper was summoned, and he was delighted at the opportunity to add to his collection. He informed us that there was a queen in the center of the mass, secreting pheromones to summon the drones. By cutting off the branch he collected the queen and her followers. A few spritzes of hairspray sufficed to cover up the queen’s scent, and several drops of lemongrass oil further attracted the bees to the box he had set up for them. He estimated that there were 20,000 individuals, but while he’s the expert, I suspect this number is grossly inflated. Regardless, he succeeded in taking all but a dozen or so of the insects with him while avoiding the tragedy of anyone getting stung.
Good riddance—now the bees will be put to good use pollinating and producing honey—no need for an exterminator and a pointless eradication. The visual was an interesting display of fecundity; one more experience to add to the list of likely one-in-a-lifetime sights.