"You also said the skunk wouldn’t spray me either!"
April 28, 2012 11:06 AM   Subscribe

"Did you put any thought into this?" - Using their bare hands, two guys carefully move a swarming colony of placid honey bees.

[Warning: While no bees were harmed, and no one was stung, the video might not be safe for people with Apiphobia.]
posted by quin (50 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I have found one of those rare cases where a youtube comment actually is worth reading, so I'll reproduce it here:
Those bee aren't actually at a hive, their just swarming. They're actually quite docile in this state and can be easily handled by stoned youtubers. If there was a hive there there then the bees would be very aggressive and sting the shit out of those two. They actually shouldn't have moved them, they would have left when the sun set. –psil22
So true, so true.
posted by Scientist at 11:28 AM on April 28, 2012 [11 favorites]

I've been doing quite a bit of research on beekeeping lately, and hopefully the gear I ordered will be arriving soon. One of the things I picked up is that, despite the fearsome appearance, swarms are generally pretty calm. There's nothing for them to defend, so they're just sort of hanging around until a permanent home can be found.

My state requires hives to be registered, and one of the blanks on the form asks if I want to be on the 'swarm removal' call list, and how far I'd be willing to travel to get one. Because, hey, free bees. The books recommend against rookies doing it, since you don't really know the bees lineage or whether or not they're diseased or (heaven forfend) Africanized.
posted by jquinby at 11:32 AM on April 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

My friend had a swarm in his backyard like that. He called the local bee shop up, and this guy shows up with a cardboard box. Grabs the swarm with his hands, tosses them in the box, throws the box in his backseat, and then drives away.

So yeah I guess they are pretty chill when they swarm.
posted by bradbane at 11:36 AM on April 28, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yeah man don't mind us we're just buzzin'
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:15 PM on April 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

mr supermedusa & I just captured a swarm of honeybees 2 weeks ago. we did suit up and wear gloves but it was an amazingly calm and orderly experience. (youtube vid of our capture)
posted by supermedusa at 12:16 PM on April 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Bees be buzzing. Stoners be tripping.
posted by Fizz at 12:26 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have petted a ball of bees before. They're quite amenable to it under the right circumstances.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:11 PM on April 28, 2012

DH and I have three hives in our yard. So far this spring, two have produced swarms. The first was too high up in a tree for us to get. The second wasn't and so, like supermedusa, we collected them. Unfortunately, the girls decided to leave about 24 hours later despite our efforts. Oh well...
posted by onhazier at 1:21 PM on April 28, 2012

This is cool and all, but the dudes should really have minded their own beeswax.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 1:22 PM on April 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Pfft. Every day I make a brand new pair of fresh underpants out of a placid swarm of bees.
posted by loquacious at 1:23 PM on April 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

So, basically, swarms are bee raves waiting around for clearance from the flight tower?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:24 PM on April 28, 2012

I heard recently that the large honey bees don't sting unless really provoked/threatened....a family friend had one of my 2.5yr old daughters petting one. I assumed he knew what he was talking about since he said it with such confidence even though I knew he was establishing a bad precedent with a child who can't tell the difference between a big honeybee and a yellow-jacket.
posted by whatgorilla at 1:44 PM on April 28, 2012

Bees are my little buddies who come to sample the flowers in our garden. I also remember finding sweat bees in the sand at playgrounds when I was a kid (Southern California), and we would play with them, keep 'em as pets and stuff. Bees rock, just don't try to get in on their home-scene.

Yellow-jackets, on the other hand, are evil bastards who like to dive bomb me while I'm manning the barbecue.

Man, I really wish I could have beehives in my yard.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:39 PM on April 28, 2012

A swarm of bees can fucking kill you.
posted by bukvich at 3:53 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

We really live in a world of frightened ninnies, alas. When bees are swarming, they're about as docile as they ever get, and the rest of the time—well, they're docile then, too. Unless you're allergic or a jackass, there's no reason to fear bees other than ignorance.

I had a car full of bees on the MLK in Baltimore back in 2009, when I was splitting a hive from the city to try to reboot a failing hive back home and, as it happened. I was at a traffic light and I got a call from the chief operating officer from my future (and present) employer, telling me that they were very impressed with my first interview and were hoping I could come in the next morning for a follow-up interview. I was overjoyed, covered with loose bees, and was distracted by the sound of a nearby woman screaming.

"Could you hang on a moment?" I asked, and leaned over to see why the wildly gesticulating woman in the car beside me was freaking out.


"You got BEES up in your car!"

"Oh, I know," I said, pointing to my phone to imply that I was in the middle of a very important conversation.

"No, mister—you got BEES all up in your car! Get outta there!"

"No, it's okay, thanks, they're mine, it's fine," I said, and the light changed, so I drove off. "Sorry about that," I apologized. "Some woman was yelling at me that I had bees in my car."

"You have bees in your car?" my future (and bestest ever) boss asked, quizzically.

"Well, yeah, but they're mine, so it's okay."

"They're your bees?" she started, but thought better of it and got to the point, "So 11 o'clock tomorrow?"

"Definitely," I said, and had to go out and buy another dress shirt, as I'd worn my only one to the interview and, well, it was dirty. Got home with a nice new dress shirt in one hand and three bars of brood comb in the other, complete with bees, and wasn't stung once.

Bees die when they sting, so they don't sting unless the situation calls for drastic action, and they've got a highly evolved sense of what's a threat and what's not a threat. Takes five minutes to find this out online, but again, people love being panicky ninnies. To get stung by a swarm would pretty much require smashing up a couple of handfuls of bees first, and even then, it's hard to get 'em riled for long. When they're swarming, they're at their most vulnerable, and it just doesn't make evolutionary sense for them to be agressive.

Sadly, the nearly universal ignorance out there is what gets perfectly healthy swarms doused with poison and killed by imbeciles.
posted by sonascope at 4:07 PM on April 28, 2012 [206 favorites]

I have petted a ball of bees before. They're quite amenable to it under the right circumstances.

Like, being on shrooms?
posted by nzero at 4:30 PM on April 28, 2012

sonascope, I'm favoriting your comment as hard as I can.
posted by nzero at 4:32 PM on April 28, 2012

Like, being on shrooms?

I assume you mean the bees being on shrooms. To my knowledge, I have never encountered a single bee on shrooms. However, if I do, I will pat it to find out whether it enjoys the experience and report back with all possible haste.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:30 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

No conversation with bees is complete without Eddy Izzard Covered in Bees.
posted by Phalene at 5:45 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been stung by bees on more than one occasion, but always when I was inadvertently too close to their hive. When they're away from the hive, they're really perfectly fine. Parasites are pretty much the only living things I care to eliminate these days. Snakes, wasps, spiders, whatever. I try to keep them out of the house since they freak out my SO and screaming is not good for any small creature's disposition.

Even wasps, which can be quite aggressive, bother me much less now. It took a while to learn and get control over my response, but now that I don't freak out, the insects don't freak out. At least a few times each summer a bee or wasp or something will land on me, crawl around for a while, and eventually leave. I just play it cool and make sure I don't accidentally crush them and everybody's happy.
posted by wierdo at 5:51 PM on April 28, 2012

frightened ninny here. Anaphylaxis will do that to a person though.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 6:19 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hey since we have some bee and bug knowledgable types around here, does anyone know whether there is something to the claim that wasps will not build nests, and spiders won't build webs, on porch overhangs painted sky blue on the interior? (it's also called "haint blue" as it supposedly keeps out ghosts).

My inlaws did this and they haven't seen a wasp nest or much in the way of spiderwebs in two years, though they had plenty before.

(I can move this to an Ask question if it's too much of a derail, mods--I just was reminded of it by this post).

I would love to have a beehive, though my son is very scared of them. I don't think I could give them the care they deserve, though.
posted by emjaybee at 6:21 PM on April 28, 2012

I assume you mean the bees being on shrooms.

I was thinking more like, the state of mind wherein one would perceive a ball of bees as amenable to petting sounds like it might require shrooms to achieve.

However, by all means carry out the bees on shrooms experiment. I await the results anxiously.
posted by nzero at 6:48 PM on April 28, 2012

(seriously though, your statement just gave me a silly mental image of someone on shrooms/acid/whatever petting a bee swarm like it was a puppy)
posted by nzero at 6:49 PM on April 28, 2012

Yellow jackets ruined any joy I can have for hymenoptera. Those fuckers have stung me badly and in vast quantity. Never been stung by a honeybee. Last time I was stung was while mowing the lawn. Felt a familiar burn in my calf, so i took two steps away to distance me from her sisters and smashed the bitch to hell.

By the way, the scary thing about hymenoptera is not that they sting but that they fly and can sting/ Keep a can of aquanet on hand and you can turn them into a walking stinging insect non-toxically and subsequently into a smear on the bottom of your shoe.
posted by plinth at 6:51 PM on April 28, 2012

At least a few times each summer a bee or wasp or something will land on me, crawl around for a while, and eventually leave. I just play it cool and make sure I don't accidentally crush them and everybody's happy.

My only experience like that was a yellow jacket landing on me. I was like "okay, be chill. It has no reason to sting me. I'll wait for it to leave". So it walked around a bit on my hand, then looked around, and reached down and fucking bit me. With its mandibles. Like, because I'm made out of meat.

So yeah, yellow jackets are total jerks, but bees sure seem okay.
posted by aubilenon at 7:06 PM on April 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

posted by illenion at 7:16 PM on April 28, 2012 [11 favorites]

I tend to think of bees as the perfect evangelists for taoism, in that when you practice the concept of action without action, or wu wei, everything just flows. You learn their ways, and how they act, remembering that the bee is not the animal—the hive is the animal, dissolute and united in a balance established by the rules of survival in the millions of years since the Eocene epoch was transitioning into the Oligocene. While the Alps were just rising over Europe, pressed up from the crust by the majestic force of the African plate crashing into the Eurasion plate, long before the world even began to dream us up, bees were working, learning, adapting, evolving. We think we're all so important, but we're just infants by comparison, a minor species off a minor branch, reveling in our wild successes, but we're just a blink, the track of a shooting star caught in the peripheral vision of a bigger picture.

You learn from your beekeeping predecessors, and this is the best time in history to be a small-scale beekeeper, because the internet will plug you right into the well of historical thinking on the relationship between our upstart selves and the ancient collective that works as smoothly as the finest machines we can imagine. You can go the modern route, with fussy, industrial Langstroth hives, and bend the bees to your will, at the peril of breaking systems that worked so well for so long, or you can take the gentler turn, with top bar hives. There's the hands-off approach worked out by Emile Warré and skeps and legions of other approaches. If you're lucky, smart, and able to achieve a state of contentment when you're surrounded, the bees reward you with indifference and a bit of honey, wax, and propolis. If you think you can force your will on an elder species, though, you will be rewarded by disaster.

In the high summer, there's no better place than a lawn chair in front of the hive. The harvesters come and go, paying you no mind as anything but a large obstacle. The patterns change, but only just, and they zip on by, coming in heavy, with golden clusters of pollen on their legs, and leaving light, heading out for the nectar harvest. You can pick up a trace of the scent of the hive if you're close enough, a lush mix of sweet honey and the hints of spicy herbs and the delicate resin overtones, and watch the guards at the gates as the housekeepers come through, cleaning up the debris that ends up in the bottom of the hive as the work goes on. Every member of the hive has a function and a rulebook, and despite the foolish Western thought process that makes us insist on calling the queen "Queen" in the sense of serfdom that's familiar to us, there is no leader or singular mind working behind the scenes. Their lives and patterns surge and swell in drifts of pheremones and actions and collective understandings about what's needed, when, and where.

It's so unlike us that it's overwhelming, sometimes.

With Kenya top bar hives, you can go without gear most of the time, too, though I tend to at least keep the veil, lest I get a stray zap near my eye. You pull the top cover, then use a thin knife to pry up the bars, breaking the attachments of propolis that bees use to smooth out discontinuities and things they don't like, and delicately lift a whole bar up, taking care to rotate it on the long axis, lest the comb break off at the bar. In a top bar hive, there are no frames and plastic comb to trick them into working our way, so the comb is a beautiful, organic shape, and everyone stays on board, working as if everything was just fine. In brood comb, the new hatchlings climb out, pale and delicate, and sit there on the comb with bees attending as the new life unfurls like a balled up flag of black and yellow. Sometimes you'll find the waxy peanut shape of queen cells, near the bottom if they're intending to swarm, or near the top if the queen's weak or not laying enough. It's not a good idea to keep the hive open too long, as the clouds of invisible scent are screaming advertisements to random passerbees that there's another hive that might be worth robbing, but it's just hypnotic to be there, watching the tapestry of constant activity on a piece of comb.

You go in when the time is right, and take action, but just enough action, lest they abscond and leave you with an empty box. I killed a hive, years ago, by interfering too much, and imposing my will too much, and my weak hive was assassinated by the strong feral colony it had spawned itself, which lived in the eaves of the church next door and picked up on the aroma of weakness to come and rob my hive. I caught it in action, with bees fighting at the entrances, but when all was done, the feral hive took everything, killed everyone, and chopped the comb on twenty full bars into a bed of wax flakes to bury the vanquished. I lost my home hive in the strange warm snap this winter, as did a lot of small beekeepers this year, because it warmed up my hive enough to bring the bees out of winter cluster, which sent them into their winter honey stores. When the temperature dropped, there wasn't enough fuel left, and my fear of opening the hive in the cold to put in feed was the inaction that doomed them.

You exist in their time. Not too much, not too little—just watch, learn, and flow.

Last year, I got stung about as badly as I've ever been stung. It was a long time coming, and my home bees have an itchy venom as opposed to my city bees, which hurt more, but with less aftermath, conditions that go away if you get a few stings per season. My bees are traditionally little pacifists, more inclined for the head-butting attacks and biting, of all things, flying up to bop against my face in a pugilistic gesture that means yeah, buddy, we don't think you belong here! or laughably biting the mesh of my veil. I was out of sorts because of a pinched nerve that had rendered me almost incapable of working, and I was up early and a little blissed-out on medical chocolate supplied by my Angeleno ex and had the thought that I should change the feed bag in the hive before we got the usual Indian summer heat. Put on my full set of gear, though a bit sloppily, and popped the top on the hive—

With the first bar out, they all came up in a dark, pissed off area rug of mean. There's a reason why you go into a hive in the midday, and that's that almost no one's home. In the morning, when it's still too cool for them to fly, they're all there with nothing to do except...hey, who's that jerk in our hive? They swamped me, and my usual composure wasn't there, especially when I realized that at least six were inside my veil because I'd not zipped it up properly and that the sensation I had in my plumber's area that a trickle of sweat was finding the most obvious route to the bottom of my ass was actually a little congo line of bees looking for a good place to get me. Among my lessons learned was (a) zip up the fucking veil if you're going to do something stupid with the bees while you've got a buzz on and (b) you cannot pinch bees to death by clenching your butt faster than they can see where this is all going and sting you in a place that will be hell to scratch for the next three days.

They actually didn't even leave me alone when I darted across the yard and stood on my front porch, either, which is how many of my neighbors learned that there was a beekeeper in the neighborhood. Having conversations in beekeeping gear encrusted with bees is a bit awkward.

"Oh, hey Joe! Ummm, why are you wearing those beekeeper clothes?"

I was tempted to say I was working on a performance piece, as that's my usual excuse for why I'm dressed as a nun, a large blue feathered animal of some sort, a policeman, or some such thing, but I just explained that I was keeping bees.

"Ooh, I heard about that on NPR! Can we take a look?"

"Uh, I think it'd be best to do it in the afternoon, actually."

I identified thirty-three places where they'd got me, in areas from my neck to my ankles, with a few choice places in-between. My jeans, on the other hand, had almost ninety stingers that hadn't made it through, which made me sad, because I'm sentimental, even though I know that bees are not tiny little animals that are secretly my friends. I hung the gear on the porch rail and one bee landed on my index finger.

"What? Are you going to sting me now?"

In the sunshine, she was beautiful. You don't really understand how lovely bees are until they're right there. Mine are extra furry, and lean towards the yellow, moreso than some of the hip new breeds coming onto the market. With one furry little worker on my finger, I couldn't help but think about where we fit in our worlds. She's curious, mostly, and she's looking at me in eyes that see in the ultraviolet spectrum, so I look completely different to her than I look in the mirror. I walked back to the yard and blew on her, just a bit. Bees hate human breath, not from the smell of milk and Lucky Charms as much as from the carbon dioxide, so she turned up her nose and flew off. I headed back to the house and dumped myself in a scalding hot bathtub with a copy of The Ophiuchi Hotline and a glass of milk and root beer, feeling stupid for having made such a dimwit move.

Thing is—in the fourth month of a bout of chronic pain that gave me more compassion for people who hurt than any amount of philosophy or good intentions could, my incident paid off with the gift of apitoxin, which gave me a two week break from pain that three neurologists hadn't managed and enough of a boost in mood for me to find a physical therapist who fixed what was wrong. The melittin, in particular, worked like thirty-three little cortisone shots. So I learned a valuable lesson without much more of a price than a very, very itchy asscrack.

Bees are magic.

I lost that hive this winter, but I kept a level head about it. Bee trees get struck by lightning and torn apart by bears and the bees keep on. Eventually we'll kill Bayer and Monsanto and the bees will keep on. Maybe we'll all die, and they'll keep on. Heck, I'll start that hive up again next year, right? It wouldn't kill me to take a break and just keep an eye on the city hive.

I didn't last a month with that line of reasoning. Late season package bees cost a fucking fortune and make the mailman mad, because the little screened boxes of ten thousand bees that come in the mail always attract roaming bees, which make the mail carriers think that the bees are escaping, which they're not. My mailman will get a big tip this Christmas and I'll have to feed the hell out of the hive to get it going before next winter, so there will be no harvest, but man, for that moment in the late summer, when you're out there in the yard and they're in all the clover in the lawn you're putting off mowing so it'll bloom—

You let go of the dumb stuff, let go of your bills and obligations, let go of your fears and insecurities, let go of your little philosophical tics and twitches, and they come into focus. All around the yard, they're out there in the clover, on a fifty million year-long mission, coming and going the way the stars race through the sky as we plummet around the sun and around the galactic center at sixty thousand miles an hour, and you're just this little mote, lost among it all, important only because you're right there, in that moment and no other, watching honeybees setting the world alight with fruit and flowers, as it's been for all these uncountable years.
posted by sonascope at 7:38 PM on April 28, 2012 [370 favorites]

Spellbinding, thanks sonascope. Now I want bees.
posted by arcticseal at 8:57 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Awesome Sonascope. I kept Carniolan honey bees in the city using top bar and Warre methods. Moved to the country now and taking on native Black Bees. The Carniolans were very mellow and I only ever needed a veil as protection. Move nice and slow and smoothly, tai chi style, and they'll pay you no mind, a spray of sugar solution rather than smoke also helped. Wonderful creatures to watch as they cool or heat their hives, land and take of on their daily food flights, the whole life cycle and working to the seasons...There is the odd sting but usually it serves to remind you that your doing something out of whack, I bear mine with pleasure and pain. I find the whole experience of keeping them to be pretty humbling to be honest.
posted by veryape at 1:59 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Oprah gif amuses me endlessly
posted by exogenous at 5:46 AM on April 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Sonascope, I'm enjoying your comments.

I do have a question about the "killed by imbeciles" link though... faced with that situation, what's the right way to proceed?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2012

faced with that situation, what's the right way to proceed?

At least in the US, every state's Department of Agriculture maintains a roster of qualified beekeepers that will come out and capture a swarm for free, usually pretty damn quick. I'm on the removal list in Maryland, but way, way down, which is a shame, because catching a swarm is a good bit cheaper than $125-$200 for a small package of bees (or nuc, if you're so inclined). Elsewhere, there are easily located agencies that'll hook you up, and good swarms get rescued rather than killed.

People are so trained these days to be fearful that the first reaction is usually KILL IT KILL IT instead of "well, let's look in the yellow pages for a sensible response." Thanks to Irwin Allen's laughable seventies disaster flick, The Swarm, and other scaredy-cat propaganda, people think "swarm" means "swirling cloud of death on the wing," instead of what a swarm really is, which is an infant hive, just spawned off an older hive.

I'm obviously a bit oversensitive, but it galls me that people are so often so terribly ignorant of something so important to the system of food production that nourishes them.
posted by sonascope at 11:19 AM on April 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

As goes bees, so goes humanity. And the midge flies. And all the little useful pollinators out there. We harm them at our peril.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:30 AM on April 29, 2012

This is delightful reading, as I listen to "down where the bees are humming" on my local radio station. What serendipity.
It also warms my heart to hear someone speak so passionately about Warre and top bar hives. We tried top bars, but they just got too cold, so we retrofitted our neighbor's old (no longer used) Langstroth hive boxes into Warre boxes.
Almost lost one hive in the middle of winter to a huge gust of wind that blew it over. My husband was out there in sweats and slippers putting it back together as quickly as possible, but we still lost about half the hive - they were crushed when it fell over.
posted by dbmcd at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2012

wait - wait a minute, sonascope... milk and rootbeer?
posted by lapolla at 6:14 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

My father is a beekeeper in a small town in the South Island, mostly retired these days. He has a little hive on his lawn, the bees potter amiably in and out.

Last time I was down he got a call from the local tennis club, something like OMG BEES BEES EVERYWHERE BEES and he said he'd come on down. He grabbed his beekeeper hat and smoker "keeps 'em quiet'. We drove down and there was a chap from the local newspaper steanding outside the fence. The tennis court was a puddled tarmac graveyard, thousands of dead and dying bees strewn across, a buzzing soccer-ball sized bundle hanging from the net in the middle.

The tennis club man unlocked the gate and we went in. Dad tucked his shirt in ("important step, that") and went to work. I watched him from a few feet away with the journo standing beside me. As Dad was gently tapping the swarm into the bannana box he'd bought along, the journalist got a little background. 'So - you come along with him all the time?' I shook my head. 'Hell no, they scare the crap out of me'. The journalist looked at me, smiled thinly. Took a step back.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:55 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

sonascope: ""Oh, I know," I said, pointing to my phone to imply that I was in the middle of a very important conversation.

"No, mister—you got BEES all up in your car! Get outta there!"

"No, it's okay, thanks, they're mine, it's fine," I said, and the light changed, so I drove off.

"Sorry about that," I apologized. "Some woman was yelling at me that I had bees in my car."

You were talking on your phone while driving? Now that's dangerous.
posted by Splunge at 4:18 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Splunge - You were talking on your phone while driving? Now that's dangerous.

Bluetooth headset. Only reason the phone was in my hand was that I picked it up to read the incoming number while I was sitting at a light, and the only reason I answered at all was that it was a call from a prospective employer regarding a job I really, really needed. I don't even allow beverages, food, or visual distractions in my car, and have an iPod shuffle with the title-talkie thing so I won't have to look away from the road while I'm queuing up the next Astrud Gilberto song. Both hands on the wheel, scan-and-execute.

lapolla - milk and rootbeer?

Dairy and brown sodas are a sublime, if not immediately obvious combo. Used to buy "french sodas" at the fancy-pants coffee shop and realized that I could just dump a little cream in a Coke. Milk and root beer is the trickiest mix, as there's something in root beer that will give you an instant science fair volcano if you don't handle the mixing properly, as I found to my disadvantage in a fast food joint once. The people nearby were not pleased with the explosive consequences.

Mind you, I also love a good Parisette, so I'm a little odd.
posted by sonascope at 4:41 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wonderful thread. Thank you sonascope. Many thanks.

I have had many memorable insect encounters. It took me a long time to get over my 'big animal arrogance'; because bees are small, and insects therefore they must be simple/stupid.

Oh no.

Sometimes, in the summer, you just have to stop, move slow, go easy, as you get thoroughly checked out by some flying thing. Bees are gentle, but thorough; wasps hasty and, sometimes, nasty; moths trusting. I would swear that I've had moths fly to my hand when they get stuck inside or at a light.

I dont think we have yellow jackets in the UK, thankfully but we once had a bunch of hornets (black/brown, hairless, look like bees' & wasps' badass uncles) set up house under the eaves. Unfortunately it just wasn't going to work out, so I ended up with the task of persuading them to move. Which I did by poking them with a very long stick.
They just dive bombed me. Slapped me about a bit. Nothing nasty, no stinging, but it got the point across so I left.
They left shortly afterwards.

We also had a wasps nest in the front garden; a small hole in the ground which just boiled with bad tempered wasps. This time a housemate volunteered. He got rid of it, and a few sods of grass, by blowing both the nest and his eyebrows away with petrol. Apparently putting a glass jar over the hole defeats a million years of evolution and the wasps, ultimately, die from confusion.

Happy days.

Do you have a favourite variety Sonascope?
posted by BadMiker at 6:30 AM on April 30, 2012

Do you have a favourite variety Sonascope?

I keep Italians, largely because I'm cheap and they're good enough for my purposes, particularly in top bar hives, which aren't as prone to the disorders that people go into other races to avoid. So far, they've been good, though I'll give cold climate bees a chance when I venture into Warre hives next year.

I should add as a caveat to all of this that I am not an expert beekeeper. I'm not abysmal, but I'm not particularly brilliant at this yet, so it's fair to take anything I mention with a healthy grain of salt. I studied beekeeping in college twenty years ago because I attended a cow college and thought I should take advantage of the agricultural classes available (sheep husbandry did not work out), then didn't do anything with it for fifteen years because I'd assumed that bees were illegal in my small town, along with most other sensible things. Discovered that they weren't banned right around the time I discovered top bar hives, which are ideal for people venturing into 'keeping because you really don't need more than a good TBH, decent gear, and enthusiasm.

I've been mostly successful, but on a very, very small scale. One lesson I've learned the hard way is that having one hive presents a real challenge, so I've networked a bit, helped friends set up hives, and can rely on that critical mass to keep going. That said, I lost my home hive over this crazy winter because of the stupid hot flash in January, so until my package of bees comes in mid-May, my backyard's a little depressing. I'll have to feed the hell out the colony to get it properly established, so there won't be any honey until next year. Of course, there are familiar-looking bees in my yard, so I'm tempted to find the little feral colony my first hive spawned in 2009, but I think I know where it is and don't want to knock on a door and say "hey, umm, my bees have infested your eaves and I'm wondering if I could get them back."

For aspirant beekeepers, there are great resources out there, like Beesource and Michael Bush's site, as well as the aforelinked biobees.com. If you plan to go the complicated route, with Langstroth hives, most books on keeping bees will cover the basics, though I'm personally not a fan of the way those hives work. To each their own, though.
posted by sonascope at 10:44 AM on April 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

MetaFilter: (sheep husbandry did not work out)
posted by lazaruslong at 12:07 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

My brother keeps bees, and the one time I suited up and went in to see them I nearly stained his nice white suit brown. I am deeply afeared of bees. Anyway, the encounter was amazing, and now whenever i call him I make sure to ask how his "bugs" (as he calls them) are doing.

Thanks for the stories, Sonascope; I already sent a link to them to my brother.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:33 PM on April 30, 2012

Just kidding, sonascope. Some fascinating stuff here. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 5:03 PM on April 30, 2012

Nice try, bee-filled-animated-corpse-of-what-used-to-be-sonascope. Nice try indeed.
posted by felix at 8:55 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Anyone who has enjoyed sonascope's posts will love Sue Hubbell's A Book of Bees.
posted by neuron at 9:49 PM on April 30, 2012

I wish my yards attracted bees. My yards always get colonized by wasps (SoCal) and yellow jackets (PNW). Even though we have lots of beehives in my neighborhood, I always end up hosting the delinquents.
posted by SakuraK at 11:56 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The one time I was stung by a bee, it had landed on my side and I put my arm down right on its stinger.

My father stepped on a bee barefoot, and that's how he found out he was allergic.

Anyone who says it's ever safe to be around bees is simply wrong.
posted by darksasami at 10:29 AM on May 1, 2012

I don't even allow beverages, food, or visual distractions in my car

I need to know what, exactly, counts as a visual distraction to a guy who drives around covered in "loose bees"?
posted by davey_darling at 9:29 PM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

i tried the rootbeer and milk combo - OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE.... it cannot be untasted. though it wasn't bad, really. interesting.
i used a shot glass and i guess i got the mix right, because there was no tiny volcano effect. seems like it could benefit from teh addition of a dark rum, though.
posted by lapolla at 4:58 PM on May 4, 2012

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