Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Apiology 101

What I expected would be a pretty low key afternoon of getting caught up on many things turned out to be an experiment in apiology, the science of bee keeping...well, ok, not quite.

As I sat at my desk working, I felt something was going on outside, so I looked up and there were hundreds, possibly a thousand or so bees swarming around my balcony. I have seen this happen before outside, and even three years ago I had a bees nest on one of the trees on my balcony so I knew that they were around. The gardeners probably founds a bees nest and moved it and they were looking for a new home.

Yes, there are bees in the Middle East. Yemen has quite a bit of honey and I also see a lot of honey from Saudi Arabia for sale. It tastes a bit more amberish and not as floral I we are used to in the West. My personal favorite is the pine honey that is made in the mountains in Turkey. Yum!

They were lingering. I can't blame them as bees. I take pride in my balcony and always have tons of flowers and plants outside in the winter when the weather permits. I am always shocked by the number of apartments here that do not have any flowers at all when there is so much potential to do so.

The bees were busily swarming around my bouganvilla....I just had a feeling what was going to happen next. In a matter of minutes, they were congregating under one of the good branches that was nice and had good shade. Uh oh. In the next five minutes, there was the start of a small hive. In the next 10 - 15 minutes I had a fairly decent size hive and it seemed word was out and everyone decided to relocate there. Word spreads very fast among bees an I was amazed at how quickly they did this.

I went down to our apartment office to ask if they could call one of the gardeners up to help move it. As I am never really sure if they follow up on things, I decided to be a little more proactive and find the gardner myself. I saw one right away. They unfortunately don't really speak English, but he followed me back home so I could show him.

Standing inside I tried to point the hive out to him - how could it be missed, it was huge and even bigger than when I left. My bouganvilla leans and needs to be tied back, so he went up and pulled it straight. This scared me for him b/c I thought, the wrong shake and that's going to upset them. He came back in and asked "You want a cut?". No! So now I am trying to buzz and do my best bee impression. Not working.

I ask him to come with me again to see if we can find the security guard who maybe will help me translate. He's not around. So he then seems to get it and asks me if I want spray. I don't really want spray because I don't want to kill bees, but now that I have a son, I certainly don't want to risk him getting stung. Yes please!

After I left him in the lobby and went back home, a very happy man named Mohammed rang my door bell. I know he worked in the complex, but I'm not sure what he was responsible for - perhaps overseeing the cleaners or maintenance. He went outside to see my new tenants and said "This is nice. This is no problem."

He went outside as I stayed in safely behind my sliding glass doors. He had only brought a long green stick with him. It was thinner than a straw really. He proceeded to stick it into the center of the bee colony!! There were many things going through my mind at that point and "this guy is nutts" was one of them.

Just before he did this another man came - perhaps his boss. He also stepped outside to help. So as the bees were swarming around mad, Mohammed and his colleague were outside in short sleeves. Mohammed swinging his stick around at the trees and his boss found my dust pan and started waving that around. :-o His boss got a phone call to go off to tend to another matter, so he left Mohammed with the dust pan and stick. I watched as he stood there waving the two around as though he was conducting and orchestra. Perhaps some "Flight of the Bumblebee" would have been appropriate for watching this.

This was insane. They weren't going anywhere. Just flying around. I'm there watching helplessly thinking this will take the entire afternoon if this keeps up. Thinking, thinking, thinking...There was a candle burning on the dining room table that I decided to blow out since I was there. It was very smokey. Aha!

I have a drawer full of incense. When we went to Vietnam several years ago, there were many people selling incense in large packages for dirt cheap. They were very persistent and kind. I bought a lot of it. Although several years ago, I still have plenty that was never used. Lightbulb moment, bees do not like smoke! All that incense burning at once could maybe smoke them out. - I must be watching the "Imagination Movers" with my son too much because I sure felt like one of them.

So, I started to light up these bunches of incense sticks and have them to Mohammed. They replaced the dust pan technique. So with smoke and stick, we started to see some relief from the bees. Since the storm seemed to be lifting, I then turned on the water to the hose and started to water down the area and surrounding plants where they still lingered. Finally, after a good 45 minutes, the majority were gone. There were a few curious ones lingering, but I anticipated they had moved on to bigger and better places. Thankfully!

Mohammed felt is was okay too and left me his mobile number in case they came back. If so, then he would bag them up and cut the branch and move them. Thankfully I didn't have to kill any bees in the process. Just to make sure they didn't plan to come back I lit some more incense after he left. Even still at 10:00 p.m., my balcony was smelling like a temple shrine.

So this morning as I sit and write this. No bees. The occasional one which I see as I look out as I write this, but I think they are just coming to the flowers, which is fine. I even saw a butterfly this morning which was nice. However, I am sure the occasional one means they didn't move that far away. So apologies to the next apartment over if they have set up shop on your balcony. I guess we'll just keep them moving around the complex until one of us decides to do an online bee keeper course!

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