Psychologists like to use word association exercises to break through our defenses and learn things about us that we wouldn’t otherwise divulge. The idea is that by making us respond quickly to key words, our brains will respond without the filter we normally use in conversation. The psychologist says “Dog,” you say, “Cat.” She says “Up,” and you say, “Down. She says “manipulative,” you say, “mother.” Hmmm… it seems that we’ve discovered something.
Anyway, I’d bet that for most people if you said, “Bee,” they’d say, “Sting.” Even though bees also do an amazing job of pollinating our crops and provide honey for us, we’re all a little wary of them. Or at least most people are. Bee keepers use a combination of knowledge and courage to help their bees flourish.
We know a few people that keep bees. Honey bees, to be exact. For various reasons, bees have had a hard time of things since a certain mite emerged in the 1980’s. That mite, plus pesticide and habitat issues have made being a bee challenging. But, commercial breeders provide replacement bees for farmers and honey producers, so in addition to truly wild bees, there are semi-domesticated bees too.
Our apiarist friends (beekeepers) were talking with us about bees last year, and about how they had found a swarm of bees, and collected them in their own man-made hives. It turns out that the word swarm is both a verb and a noun. When a hive gets too crowded, a queen will leave that hive, causing a swarm of bees who follow her to a new location, which is found by “scout” bees.
Last week I was mowing the lawn in our yard when I nearly came face to face with a swarm of honey bees on one of our bushes. With the help of one of our friends, who we summoned by phone, they were soon gathered into a hive he brought over. Before long, they seemed acclimated to their new home. The next day, we discovered another swarm of bees who had made themselves at home in a hollow in one of our trees.
I was struck with the compelling desire to walk around under the tree with an umbrella and a honey jar. But, I reconsidered when I remembered how that particular Winnie the Pooh story ended. I don’t think I’d be a very good bee keeper, for the same reason I don’t juggle knives or get tattoos. Sharp pain isn’t a preference of mine.
That being said, I’m glad to have all those bees up in the tree at our place. They’ll pollinate our corn and apple trees and raspberries, not to mention the farm crops around us. Besides, maybe their work ethic will rub off on me.