Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The great summer bee caper

Honeybee swarm causes a ruckus

It was a quiet, tranquil and, rare-for-July, sunny summer day on 42nd Avenue E. when the bees came.  As the morning wore on, however, it began to dawn on folks living on the block between E. Newton and E. Lynn Streets, that something was not quite right.  The neighborhood was no longer quiet and tranquil.  What was that loud humming, anyway?

Where they came from, no one knows.  But the bees had arrived in a giant swarm, and for some reason they decided that a big bush in front of the home of Val Ellis would be a pleasant destination.  Though Val and her husband were oblivious to the sudden bee invasion, some of their neighbors had become aware of the situation.  Naturally, they were alarmed. Val’s immediate neighbor, Anton, called her to break the news:  “Say, Val, are you aware that there are thousands of bees in your front yard?”

What Val discovered when she looked out the window was quite a sight. “I freaked out,” she told us. “I knew nothing about bees, but there they were just ten feet from my front door!” And the bees weren't all resting peacefully in their newfound bush, either.  Many were doing what bees do: swarming all over the place, occasionally massing themselves on neighbors’ windows, and buzzing out into the street.

It was clear that the neighbors expected some kind of solution out of her, Val said.  “They were up in arms!”  Apart from their concerns, Val herself was plenty motivated to get the bees gone--the sooner the better.

So she took action.  She called an exterminator: “Get down to Madison Park pronto. We’ve got an emergency!” she cried. [At this point we should note that Val doesn’t remember exactly what she said because she was still freaking out, so she gave us permission to misquote her, if necessary, to heighten the drama of the story.]  The exterminators said they’d soon be on their way:  “Don’t worry, lady, those bees are gonna be history.”

Meanwhile, however, cooler heads prevailed.  A neighbor, having investigated the commotion, asked his arborist (who just happened to be on site) to take a look at the situation.  The arborist immediately identified the bush (or perhaps tree, Val was a bit unsure which it was). More importantly, the arborist identified the bees as honeybees.  As everyone knows, honeybees are in crisis mode.  You certainly can’t exterminate honeybees!  We need every one we’ve got!

So on to Plan B:  Call the Bee Lady.  In this case, Patti Loesche, a beekeeper from Fremont who is a member of the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association.  It seems that honeybee swarms are not uncommon around here, and the PSBA maintains a list of beekeepers ready and willing to pick them up and find the bees a new home (in the beekeeper’s apiary, of course). Loesche arrived on the scene within an hour or so (the exterminators earlier having been called off).  She immediately got to work.

The neighbors, of course, remained riveted to the scene (though at a safe distance).   Honeybees swarms are not aggressive, Loesche pointed out. She then explained to the crowd how she was going to entice those very bees into an artificial hive she’d brought expressly for that purpose.  “As you can see I have here…”

As it turned out, however, educating an uninformed public and catching honeybees are two different objectives that can’t necessarily be undertaken simultaneously.  While the educational process seemed to be going pretty well, the bees were apparently coming to the conclusion that they didn’t much like what they were hearing. Suddenly the Queen decided to take off--and the swarm, following her, made a bee-line down the street.  “They’re getting away!” the crowd yelled in unison.

"Come back!"

Unperturbed, Loescher leaped into action.  She hoisted the artificial hive back into her vehicle, jumped in, revved the engine, and sped down the street in hot pursuit.  Racing around a corner, she was lost to sight.

The bees gone, the crowd disbursed.

[Thanks to Sara Perkins and Dick Lehman for the photos.  Thanks to Sara Perkins and Val Ellis for telling us the story.  It seemed like such a good place to end the tale, but there's actually more to tell. Return to the blog later this week to learn "The Rest of the Story."]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.