As I was drinking coffee on Sunday, I got a call from a woman who had a swarm of bees in her backyard. Since she lived quite nearby, Robb and I decided to run on over to see if we could catch the bees, and offer them a home.
In some ways, this was an easy swarm to catch. The bees were reasonably docile, and only about a foot off of the ground.
In other ways, this swarm was tricky. The bees were lodged behind some beautiful and thorny older rose bushes, so getting the hive box near the bees required determined contortions.
We brushed the bees into a box that Robb had built, and about half of them stayed put. This was a good sign, indicating that we might have caught the queen.
The other half of the bees flew up into the air, and then coalesced back onto the fencepost. Every time we brushed them into a box, they'd fly right back to the fence. It was very alarming to watch, and homeowner Leslie must have been less than thrilled by the display.
Since the bees in the hive box were "fanning" the "come on home" scent, we were reasonably certain that the queen wasn't on the fencepost. We decided to leave things alone, and come back later.
I drove out to pick up PJ, another one of my "imaginary friends." PJ runs a stencil company on the East Coast, and I've been buying from her for years. I've always considered her a friend, even though we've never met. She's on an extended road trip, and was passing through the Bay Area, so we just had to get together. (Click here to see her amazing stencil work on an Albany NY library)
PJ had made the mistake of telling me that she had always been interested in bees, so I dragged her over to check on the swarm. I gave her a veil, which foolishly had been sitting next to a bottle ofscented swarm lure. I advised her that there might be some chance that the bees would be excessively interested in the smell of the veil, and almost as soon as she donned the veil, her cellphone began buzzing and vibrating in her back pocket.
PJ is remarkably even-keeled. If a strange beekeeper told me that I might be wearing bee-attracting chemicals, and if my butt started buzzing, I certainly would have jumped a mile.
The bees weren't interested in complying with our wishes, so we left them to do their own thing.
When I found out that PJ was going to be visiting, I invited a number of decorative painter friends over. But, it turned out that Robb was having a really rough day. I tried to contact everyone to impolitely uninvite them. For better or for worse, Allie and Heidi didn't get the message, and showed up while PJ and I were still mucking around with the bees. Robb and I still find it very hard to anticipate how he's going to be feeling, which continues to hamper our ability to make social plans. Some day, I hope we'll get this figured out.
I did go back to get the bees, in the early evening. Silly girls were still lolling about on the fencepost, so I chatted with Leslie, and admired her delightful 1930s home. And when I got stung in the crotch, I hardly freaked out at all. Thank goodness I was able to use Leslie's bathroom, because I needed to remove the venom-pumping stinger from my jeans. (I think there's got to be a special Beekeeping Merit Badge for remaining calm after being stung in that way.) I'll be housing the bees in Allie's back yard, as soon as Robb and I build a roof and screened bottom for the hive.
Thanks, everyone for making this such a memorable day!