It was a Friday morning about a week ago when I got an urgent text message from a friend about a problem she was having in her backyard.
“I heard you all are doing something with bees,” she wrote.
“We have a large (probably in the hundreds) bee issue going on, on a tree in our backyard. Do you know how to safely get rid of them?”
My friend sounded distraught in her text. But I knew this would be exciting news for my husband who was upstairs working in his home office. This menacing swarm of bees that had randomly shown up in my friend’s backyard was exactly what my husband has been trying to find all spring and summer.
One of the positive sides of COVID19 is that it has given my husband time to live out a long-time interest of starting a small bee farm. He had been researching bee keeping for about a decade when we met some friends who were raising bees on their farmland. For the past year, he has been working alongside this friend to learn the ins and outs of this fickle business of keeping bees.
They’ve researched and observed and used trial and error to find the best size bee boxes, learn to watch for mites that could destroy a colony, keep bees alive during the winter, and watch for a swarm of bees that they could catch. In fact, we’ve had a bee trap in our backyard since spring, which my husband checks frequently for any sign of a swarm. So far, he’s caught one.
To explain in simple, non-scientific terms, when a group of bees grows too large for its hive, half of the bees will swarm off to find a new home. This can be bad for a bee keeper because he or she will suddenly lose a large part of a bee population. But it’s good if you are the lucky bee keeper who traps a swarm. This is a great way to increase your honey production without buying a colony of bees from another bee keeper.
As soon as he heard about the swarm down the street, my husband dropped what he was doing and headed out to coax the bees into a trap. He relocated them to a bee box on our friend’s farmland next to his other bees.
As I’ve been thinking about this story the past week, it made me think about so many other things that have been happening in our world this year as we all learn to navigate life during a pandemic.
Often, COVID19 feels like an unwanted swarm of bees in the backyard. Suddenly, my friend’s family could no longer step out into her own property because of the fear of being stung by bees.
For my husband, that very same swarm of bees was a godsend. He didn’t have to pay for the bees or drive an hour to pick them up from a farmer raising colonies to sell. In a few months, they will be producing honey that we will be able to consume and share with friends.
It reminds me of all of the positive changes we’ve experienced from a slower lifestyle, working from home and enjoying more family time during the pandemic. All have felt like sweet rewards, even during one of the most difficult eras of our life.
Most of the time, we don’t walk around worrying about bumping into a swarm of bees. But once my friend was aware they were lurking in her backyard, her family had to totally change their behavior. I often feel the same way about this virus. I don’t know anyone personally who has actually had it (although I’ve heard of lots of friends of friends who have gotten sick.)
We have all changed our patterns and behavior, knowing that we might run into this figurative swarm of bees. Sometimes, it feels ridiculous to shut down so much of our lives for something that many of us have never even encountered.
Maybe if we could see the virus we would behave differently. I know we wouldn’t even think about opening up one of our bee boxes without gloves and a mask. But people argue and get outraged about being told to wear a mask to protect themselves and others from a virus.
What’s the big deal? A bee sting will only hurt for a few days, and then you’ll be fine. This is exactly how I thought about bees for the first 50 years of my life. My motto was to live at peace with nature. If I don’t bother the bees, they won’t bother me.
Then, last October, I accidentally placed my hand on top of a wasp. It stung my ring finger, which didn’t seem like that big of a deal at first. I put some ice on it, and kept doing what I was doing. Within an hour, my hand had swollen so significantly that I had to go to the ER to have my wedding rings cut off.
The doctor warned that this could be an indication I have an allergy to wasps (and maybe bees). If I get stung again, my reaction could be even worse. I have the same fears about COVID19 because of my autoimmune issues. I know my immune system is far weaker than it was when I was younger. I hope that getting COVID wouldn’t be a big deal, but I really don’t want to find out!
Well, I’m happy to report that the bees are thriving in their new home. Meanwhile, my friend can go in her backyard again without any worries. Our friends asked us if they could pay us for removing the bees. That seemed funny to us since finding the swarm felt like such a stroke of good luck. Instead, we’re hopeful to someday share the honey they produce with our neighbors who were willing to let us have them! 🙂
Have you ever had an experience like this where someone else’s