Notes from a beekeeper: Bees on the Noggin

Published 8:24 pm Saturday, May 17, 2014

By Tom Garcia, for the Daily News


YEA! SPRING IS HERE! This is the time that the world awakens. This is the time of year the honeybees begin working terribly hard. This is the time of year when beekeepers (young and old, gritty veterans and new-bees alike) begin to tend to their hives with special attention in order to keep the bees from swarming, or at least capture a swarm.

It seems the swarm is much like friendship bread, or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. On the one hand, beekeepers can bring others into the fold with a gift of free bees, and mentoring them into respectable beekeepers. On the other hand, swarms are a pot of gold for the beekeeper because it means more bees, and potentially more honey… and certainly a bit more expense.

So there I was a couple of Saturdays ago, holding a ladder for a friend of mine who was attempting to collect a swarm of bees that were about 15 feet up a pear tree. Our beekeeper students stood around and watched as they waited to take their final exam. I suspect they thought, “Hmmm, I think this is going to be worth watching.”

Well, they were correct.

“Tom, you might want to put a suit on,” Mr. Baynor (a very seasoned beekeeper) warned. I dismissed the simple advise of the Wise Old Beekeeper, assuring him that I would be fine. Well, I won’t bore you with the prelude; I will just jump right into the heart of the story.

I’m holding the ladder for my friend. He is wearing his protective gear. I am not. Now, under most circumstances, swarming bees are very docile. However, if they have been stuck in a tree overnight, and have managed to survive the heavy rain and a tornado, they may only look gentle.

Chris puts the blue bucket underneath the ball of bees as he prepares to shake the bees off the tree limb and into the bucket. I have all the confidence in the world in Chris. He asks if I am ready and then he bumps the limb. I heard the ball of bees thump into the bucket. Then, I felt a thump on my head.

Yes, that was a ball of not-so-happy bees falling 15 feet and landing squarely on my head and shoulders. I felt thousands of little feet crawling all over my head, neck, arms, and face. I tried not to freak out. Then the stinging started. One. Two. Five…a lot more.

In my mind I calmly walked away from the ladder, and tried to let the bees take flight. According to others, I may have shrieked, flailed, and walked rather quickly just moments after the ball of bees smacked down upon my noggin.

The message is simple. Nothing is ever simple and it always seems like a good idea to you. Sometimes those good ideas can make you exceptionally deaf to reason, especially from observers. Simply, listen to those who are long in the tooth when they offer advice.

Please visit the Beaufort County Beekeepers website for to learn more about honeybees and beekeeping:

Tom Garcia is the founder of the Beaufort County Beekeepers Association.