Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"The Birds" . . . and the Bees

Last week while working with pick and shovel on my new landscape plan for the back garden, a frantic cawing of crows tempted me to stop for a moment and look skyward. Like an ominous scene from a Hitchcock movie, an ever increasing cloud of crows swirled over the treetops two or three blocks away. Members of the agitated flock took turns diving at some unseen foe while screaming reinforcements joined from every corner of the sky.

Astonished, I ran into the house shouting "look out the window, it's a reenactment of Hitchcock's "Birds". As quickly as the feathered menace gathered, it dispersed and I dismissed the event as the odd behavior of urban wildlife.

One afternoon a day or so later, my daughter suddenly noticed thousands of insects swarming just outside the window. On further inspection, we discovered a 18" long sack of honey bees clustering around a Sweet Gum tree limb about 20 feet off the ground. Suspecting an exodus from our next door neighbor's hive, I suggested a call to her bee keeper.

The bee keeper quickly dispatched a friend with a rickety ladder and a wooden box to collect the hive. Mostly covered by the classic bee keeper attire, the man casually held the box over his head and gave the branch a quick shake. Bees rained down on him like hail by and large falling or flying into the box. He assured me the bees were an Italian non-aggressive variety. After a few minutes, only a few stragglers still clustered on the branch or flew around looking for their queen.

Back at pick and shovel a few days later, the birds and the bees were far from my mind until all at once three bees started diving in my direction. At first I thought I would just move to a different spot in the garden, but when I did they followed me aggressively attacking my straw hat. I could barely get my muddy shoes off and slip through the sliding door without being stung. One patrolled outside the glass door while I watched from the safety of the house.

Oh well, I thought, it is hot and I have a project to finish in the basement. Surely they will tire of this sport by the time I return. After nearly three hours, when I went out to work I was interrupted this time by one bee buzzing around my head. Wherever I went it followed. I decided it would be prudent to return to the basement.

Later that afternoon when Gary arrived home, the bee met him in the garage as he opened the car door. Once again in the safety of the house, we watched as the bee patrolled our garden flying up close to us just outside the glass. Our garden is usually buzzing with countless bees collecting nectar from the flowers. Not today. There were no other bees in sight.

Still thinking this was just an unusual phenomenon, I returned to the garden the next morning. Once again at almost the exact time of the first attack the day before, a lone bee dove for the back of my neck. I rushed into the house thinking, "this bee means business."

The attacker never stopped for a moment's rest the first day, but it must have been tired by it's efforts because finally it rested on a leaf close to the ground. Gary seized the opportunity to capture it by placing a glass over the adversary. Immediately there was peace in the garden. A few minutes later, friendly bees returned to their work amongst the flowers and I picked up my work where I left off.

Someone once told me, "pay attention when things happen in threes."

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