Bee Not Afraid

Honey Bees are not the ideal co-workers you might think.
They don’t have any job skills not related to hive building or honey making, buzz too loudly while you’re trying to talk on the phone, and leave pee-stains on everything in sight!
But seriously, today the situation has returned to a manageable state, but as the forthcoming tale will attest, things aren’t always what they they seem [to bee].

From in-between the steel structure and exterior brick of my office building, honey bees have been finding their way into my office for the past few years from the hive they had built there.
I’m not sure how they managed to get separated from the hive, or why they were unable to find their way back, I only know that they couldn’t, and were then left with no other option than to enter a small opening in the corner of my office, up and to my right.
Typically, they would appear in pairs, only in groups of three or more occasionally.
Seeing them, and sharing my office with them was, and for the few that remain, is, a treat.
And it wouldn’t have been a problem if the numbers hadn’t grown so exponentially.
Just a few per day is fun, and I can enjoy them for a while before ensuring they find their way back outside.
But dozens or more per day, not nearly so, and I could no longer keep up with them all.
I’d crack my window open in hopes they’ll find their own way out, but for bees, they’re not very good navigators ; at least not indoors anyway.
I wind up having to help most of them out.
I don’t know anything about their vision, I just know that they can die just inches from an open window, seemingly, and completely unaware that they were not hopelessly actually trapped in some strange and unfamiliar place after all.
Other times, I’ve seen them several feet away, appearing hopelessly lost, then suddenly, “bee-line” for the crack in the window as if they knew exactly where it was all along.
After trying a few different methods during the day while I’m at work, I have found picking them up on the end of one of my wooden colored pencils, then gently setting them on the ledge outside my office window most effective.
It makes me feel good about myself too, although the small quantity I’m able to save likely does nothing to help the overall hive.
Regardless, once they began coming in by the dozen, saving them became an exercise in futility.

At night, unable to find their way out of the building, or back to the hive from which they came, every morning I would find several lying lifeless on the floor, around, or on top of my desk.
A sad and depressing sight indeed, and certainly no way to start the day.
I tried leaving a window cracked overnight, but for obvious security reasons, I couldn’t do it every night, and only a few would find their way out anyway.
So I would sweep them up and place them in the landscaping around the outside perimeter of the building.
There was something about allowing them to fertilize the very plants from which they had once collected pollen, and from which their surviving relatives would continue that seemed appropriate.
Before collecting them, I would often look at them for a moment, then as if they were my children, fuss at them quietly for leaving the hive without knowing where they were going, or how to get back.
A silly notion for a grown man, but they look so harmless lying there, plus I felt guilty and inadequate for being unable to solve the problem that so unceremoniously ended their fascinating and useful lives.

I knew it was time to get the property owners (my bosses) involved, but I was afraid they may not share my desire to save the bees, and elect for a more frugal and immediate solution instead.
For this reason, I decided to contact a bee removal specialist on my own, to try to get a better understanding of what I was about to ask.
I had a similar problem at my home several years ago, but I noticed it early, when the bees were still on the outside of the house and had not yet moved inside.
A bee removal specialist from a local university was able to come out right away.
He simply located the queen, placed her in a box, and the hive happily followed ; No problem.
But as I would soon learn, this removal would prove exceedingly more difficult.
This hive was already inside the building, was near the roof, and depending on how difficult it would be to locate the queen, could require significant exterior building demolition and re-installation.
Not exactly what I was hoping to hear, but that’s what it was, and that’s what I took with me to make my plea.
I told my bosses I was willing to split the costs, pay all of the costs, and/or do anything within my power to ensure the safe removal of the bees without harm to the property, if they would in-turn resist the temptation to elect the less expensive and more expedient option of extermination.
Luckily, after an initial misunderstanding, they were on-board, waived my offer to pay the costs, and we began to proceed accordingly, although it would prove significantly more difficult than any of us had suspected.
In fact, it would take almost 3 years to find a specialist with the right plan and proper determination to ensure safe removal.
But once we found the right one, we were able to work together to have the bees removed safely, and without undue property damage or excessive costs.
The specialist removed the hive and took almost all of the bees back to his farm, where they would continue to do their vitally important ecological work.
So the worst is over, and I’m eternally grateful that my company was so understanding and sympathetic. By the end, I was convinced they were as determined as I was to ensure that no harm came to the bees.

We’re now in to our first week without the hive, and even though most of the bees are gone, there are some that managed to avoid capture during relocation, and remain trapped inside the building.
But like their ancestors before them, they find the crack in my office corner, try to fly through the glass in my window, get tired and fall down on my desk, and we start all over again.

But now that things a have slowed down, I’ve had a chance to think about these past three years and the time I’ve been so lucky to spend with these little wonders of nature.
What once amounted to a quick scoot out-the-window, has become more of a face-to-face exercise in wonderment.
Now when I offer my colored pencil tip to an exhausted bee, I look at him closely, and wonder what he or she may be thinking, or likely in their case ; intuiting.
I try to imagine how their brains assess the danger of climbing on to the pencil held in the hand of this giant being that is me, and why they aren’t afraid?
How do they know I won’t hurt them?
Are they just so exhausted they’re willing to gamble their safety on the off-chance that whatever this thing is, it might just lead them back to the hive?
Is it the wood of which the pencil is made?
Or is it as I like to imagine:
..that maybe they come into my office in the first place because they somehow know it’s safe.
..that they fearlessly climb on to the tip of my colored pencil because they know I am their friend.
..that they likewise feel connected to me as I do them, and of all dangers known to their world, I mean them no harm.
..that they can see that not all of my species is wasteful and destructive.
And I imagine there will be a time indeed, when all of humankind understands that the mind-boggling work done by these magnificent creatures is selfless, and not executed for the sole benefit of their own preservation ; but ours.

-BD

2 thoughts on “Bee Not Afraid

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