The Bee Whisperer

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What follows is a pretty amazing – or at least interesting – story, complete with pictures and video.

This morning, on our way out of the house, we notice what appears to be a dust storm swirling around the top of this tree on our neighbor’s lawn. We get a bit closer, and we dive to put up the windows in the car because we realize that it is not a dust storm at all, but an immense swarm of bees, circling the tree.

When I say immense, I mean that this swarm would have given Alfred Hitchcock nightmares. It was like something from the movies, only instead of The Birds it was The Bees.

This is what the swarm looked like (all those little blips flying around are bees – and this was just the tail end of the swarm!):

Now, there is another tree not far from the tree around which the bees were swarming, and we call that tree “the bee tree” because every summer the bees arrive and take up residence in a huge hole in the middle of that tree. And that tree is on city property. It’s pretty clear that the swarming bees are coming out of that tree, and so we figure we’ll call the city and say “help help, there is a swarm of bees!”

So, we call the municipal offices of the city in which we live, and say “Help help, there is a swarm of bees!” And they say “call the county vector control offices.”

So we call the county vector control offices, and they say “We can only give you advice. We can’t actually do anything. Would you like the number for the bee keeper’s guild?”

Now, I’m not sure what good a bee keeper is going to do me, so we call our city public safety offices, and tell them that there is a swarm of bees swarming around a tree in our neighborhood – a neighborhood where lots of kids are out playing. It’s dangerous. We tell them that vector control couldn’t actually do anything, and we are told “oh, call this office instead. They will know what to do.”

So we call this office instead, and they say “we can’t really do anything; would you like the number of a bee keeper?”

“What,” I ask, “will a bee keeper do about a swarm of bees swarming around a neighborhood tree?”

Well, it turns out that what they will do is come and get them.

Yep, that’s right.

And you thought that cat herding was hard! Imagine trying to corral a swarm of bees!

So I call the bee keeper, feeling a little silly (“Hello? Would you like to come try to wrangle an enormous swarm of angry bees?”). But he was very nice, and he explained that if the swarm had clumped (“huh?”) he could in fact come get them.

Then he explained that when the bees swarmed out of their hive (in this case the hole in the city-owned tree), they were looking for a new home. And when I interjected that the tree around which they were swarming could not possibly offer them a home, it being solid and with rather slender limbs, he explained that the swarm would settle down into one big clump of bees in that tree, and then send out scouts to find a suitable new home. And if in fact the bees were no longer swarming, but had settled into a big clump of bees and remained there, he could come get them.

Well, I confess I was dubious. I mean, I’ve never seen a big old clump of bees hanging out in a tree, have you? But I offered to drive back to our house to see if the bees were still swarming there. Or clumped. I told him that I’d call him back.

As we drove down the street towards the tree where the bees had been so thick an hour before, we could see no sign of the bees. When we get really close to the tree, we saw just a couple of bees hanging out, flying around the tree.

I figured the swarm had left.

So we rounded the corner, and as we pulled up alongside the far side of the tree, looking for any sign of more bees, I suddenly saw it:

Do you see anything there?

How about here?:

Holy cow (er, holy bee!)!

I called the bee keeper back, and said “Wow, you were right! It was just like you said, there is a big old clump of bees in that thar tree!”

I gave him directions to the tree, and then I asked him when he thought he might come by. He said he figured he had better come right over. So we decided that we would hang out in the car and watch. I mean, how often do you get a chance to see someone come and relocate a swarm of bees?

About 20 minutes later, a white van pulls up. We expect someone in a hazmat suit to get out. Instead, out gets this slender man with a long white beard, long grey hair put up in a barrette, and wearing only thin white cotton coveralls for protection.

He goes up to the tree and looks at the big old clump of bees. “Ah,” I think, “he’s assessing the situation, then he’s going to put on the hazmat suit.”

Next thing I know, he whips out a pair of pruning shears, and starts clipping away some of the excess foliage around the big old clump of bees. With no hazmat suit – not even any gloves or anything!

Then he goes back to his truck, gets a big old bee box and puts it on the ground under the big old clump of bees. Then he goes to the truck and gets one of those bee keeper hats, and some bee keeper gloves. Ok, this seems a bit saner, but still no bee keeper hazmat suit.

We’re waiting to see how he is going to stupify the bees. We figure he has some sort of portable bee stupifying smoker.

Well, the next thing we know, he is shaking the tree limb where that big old clump of bees is hanging out! Is he MAD??? The bees start flying around.

Then he whips out a dustbrush, like the kind you use to sweep dirt into a dustpan, and he’s shaking and sweeping and a huge portion of that big old clump of bees is suddenly in his bee box.

(Note: Sound edited out to reduce bandwidth.)

He puts the box in his truck, and removes his bee keeper’s hat and bee keeper’s gloves. There are now a lot of bees – the ones he didn’t get into the box – swarming around. He walks over to the car and say that they will go back to their city tree once they realize that the vast majority of the swarm has left.

He goes back over to his truck, then seems to have a second thought, and goes back to the tree, and gets down on his hands and knees under the tree in the middle of all these swarming aggitated bees!


And the bees just fly around him and don’t touch him!

When he is done with this odd ritual – and let’s hear your comments as to what you think he is doing – he comes over to say goodbye, and I ask him if he can estimate how many bees were in that big old clump of bees?

“Oh, 15 to 20…thousand.”


Now that’s a lot of bees.

I sure hope that they are happy in their new home.

3 thoughts on “The Bee Whisperer

  1. So what WAS he doing? Looks like maybe he was checking to see if he’d forgotten the queen, but that seems unlikely…

    What a cool story! Thanks for posting it, it was fascinating.

  2. I don’t know who wrote that up, but they obviously did not know a darn thing about bees.
    And as for the beekeeper! Anyone who would work bees without a vail or some kind of eye protection is pure stupid.
    Hey! It doesn’t bother me at all to catch a stinger, but to risk being stung in the eye ….Not Me .

    See Ya
    High Springs, Florida

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