It’s barely visible, but it’s there

On Saturday, I stepped out of the house into the backyard to show my sister, Bean, the nest I’d built and discovered that a bee swarm had taken up residence in the lemon tree. For another person, this might’ve been a horrifying discovery, but I was delighted: I’d always wanted to see a bee swarm.

“WE’VE GOT A BEE SWARM!” I squealed to the Curmudgeonly Lion after galloping in the door of his workshop like a kid on Christmas morning.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to raise bees, but I haven’t quite worked up the gumption to try it yet and I was not-so-secretly hopeful that the swarm might find a spot in our yard that they deemed suitable for colonizing so that I could observe them ‘in the wild’ without feeling responsible for their survival.

There was a wooden box on the patio that had originally held recycling, but currently was empty except for baking soda, bric-a-brac, and a handful of brown and black widow spiders. I cleaned out the former and the Curmudgeonly Lion dispatched the latter with, no joke, a flamethrower, and then drilled a hole in the front wall of the box with a spade bit. I searched around the yard for a place to put it and settled on the easement beside the shed, which was south facing, shady, and not likely to be too high traffic.

I didn’t know what it would take to convince the bee scouts to check it out.

“Maybe put out a shallow dish of water with a rock in it.” Bean suggested. “So the bees can drink from it.”

I set out a metal bowl full of water with a rock in it as close to the lemon tree as I dared to get. Tucked amidst the leaves I could see the “beard” of the swarm hanging from a branch: a very orderly pine-cone shaped mass of bees. The bees were all oriented the same direction in an orderly arrangement like acrobats building a pyramid. I wondered what it must be like to be a single bee in that complex matrix, trying to support the weight of the entire colony.

“An offering of water and rock.” I told the bees. “There’s also a very nice box on the far side of the shed if you want it.”

The bees gave no indication of whether this pleased them.

I had some leftover honey set aside from when I’d decided to try using it to propagate rose cuttings so I watered it down and put out a row of jars with honey-water leading from the lemon tree towards the shed like a little trail of jelly beans. Then, feeling I had done all I could do, I retreated back into the house to stare anxiously out the kitchen window like a stalker.

In spite of my hopes, the bees moved on from the lemon tree the next day to settle elsewhere. So, regrettably my days as an apiarist have not yet arrived, but it was a thrill while it lasted.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 10, 2020.

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