Have you ever been around swarming bees? It's kind of intimidating.
When a hive starts to get overcrowded, the bees will start to raise up a new queen, and the old queen leaves with a chunk of workers to go elsewhere. If you can catch or trap the swarm, you will now have two hives instead of one. Which is pretty cool, and the reason we currently have five beehives when we started with one.
What is slightly less cool is the way they start to freak out, and a giant cloud of darting bees rises up in the air in a cartoon-like ball of activity. Walking outside and looking up, the sky looks darkened and the sound…well, it's just like what I imagine sticking your head inside an angry hive would sound like. You have to wait for them to settle somewhere, and that somewhere is usually an impossibly high tree branch. They start to coalesce into a giant beard of insects, protecting the queen and flocking to her pheromones in preparation for moving on. The trick is to get them before they fly off.
Enter my husband, with a hacksaw and a deer stand, climbing thirty feet up a skinny maple tree. He gets up pretty high, then looks down at me and says:
"Hey, I need you to go get a veil on."
What? Oh aitch E double hockey sticks NO. I don't even do bees when they're in a moderately calm hive. I certainly don't do falling branches covered in a swarm of ticked-off stinging insects. No. Just…No.
"You'll be fine, they won't sting you."
Uh-huh. Right. The angry bugs won't sting me. They don't even like me on a regular day.
But he's insistent. He needs my help. Can't do this without me. I'm having visions of the Hunger Games, tracker-jacker venom making it's way through my system before I die a horrible hallucinogenic death.
"FINE!" I yell. "But I'm not doing this in shorts and a t-shirt!"
I stomp inside, and put on jeans, put on boots and a button up flannel shirt. Tuck it in. Put on a veil. I look ridiculous but I could care less. I want to be as invulnerable as possible. I go back outside grumbling and stand nervously under the tree. He tells me to stand back for a second as he saws through the branch. Okay, Katniss. You go, girl. Suddenly the ten-foot section of tree falls and thousands of bees are shaken loose and begin to fly around angrily. But the branch is tied to a rope, and when they calm down somewhat he lowers the branch slowly toward me. I have to grab it and stabilize it on the way down, my bare hands just inches from a three inch thick layer of bees encasing the branch. I hold it steady, chewing on my lip, as he climbs down. Then we carefully carry the whole thing over to the box he's prepared for the swarm.
A short time later, all the bees are off the branch and in the box, with only one sting (not on me) to show for it.
And now we have five colonies. Eeesh.
I will admit to feeling a bit empowered by facing one of my fears, but it's not something I'm in a big hurry to do again. My only regret is not getting a picture of the process. I'm sure my outfit alone would have been blog-worthy. :)