The Bee Dance
When my brother decided he wanted to add a beekeeping badge to his medley of Boy Scout merit badges, a local beekeeper helped him start a beehive. His beekeeping training was off to a good start, and the rest of the family thought it interesting that we had a beehive in our backyard. We also looked forward to enjoying the delicious honey that the busy bees were producing.
One day, though, a strange sound drew my mother’s attention to the patio window, where she was treated to the spectacle of my brother doing a wild-and-crazy dance accompanied by guttural grunts and wild gesticulations.
The inspiration for the dance was an adventurous bee making its way up the inside of my brother’s pant leg. The crisis was resolved without either bee or keeper being harmed. But just as soon as my brother got himself and the bee out of his pants, he declared that he’d had enough of beekeeping. He would have nothing more to do with those bees.
Since I had become interested in the bees myself, I decided to take over as the family beekeeper. Honeybees are fascinating creatures, and I found that I enjoyed beekeeping. I decided to expand my beekeeping operation and produce enough honey to sell. I had an after-school job, so I had a bit of money to invest in the venture. I rapidly acquired additional hives, and my little beekeeping operation soon boasted a total of 12 hives.
We lived in a suburban neighborhood with neighbors on all sides, and while I thrilled to the sight and sound of my bees rising in a great cloud from their hives and zipping off in all directions to forage, the neighbors were somewhat less enthusiastic. Even the bottles of honey that I would occasionally bestow upon our neighbors rapidly lost their ability to charm. And I must admit, mowing the back yard had become more of an adventure than it ought to be. My parents had been very patient, but one day Dad told me it was time to find another home for the bees.
I found a farmer on the outskirts of town who would allow me to place all of my hives in one of his fields, and so we were faced with the task of moving the bees. Since bees don’t leave their hive at night (we thought), we decided we would move them after dark. Dad and I could move the hives, but we would need someone to hold a light for us. With great coaxing – assuring him that he wouldn’t have to get close to the bees, but could stand at a distance and shine the light where needed – I convinced my brother to help.
We got the bees loaded onto the truck, and drove to the farm. But the bees had not enjoyed the bouncy, noisy ride. In fact, it was frighteningly obvious that they were quite upset! Nevertheless, we had to unload them, so dad and I donned our protective gear of gloves and veils, and told my brother to shine the light on the first hive. We learned then that bees would indeed fly at night when dozens of livid bees launched themselves at that flashlight like tiny winged torpedoes.
And there it was again: an encore performance of the Bee Dance!
We couldn’t see it very well in the pale moonlight, just enough to vaguely make out some of the spastic twitching and jerking, but for this particular rendition of the dance my brother added some rather high-pitched shrieks to the guttural grunts. But in spite of the theatrics, my brother escaped with only a few stings (thanks to immediately dropping the flashlight and leaving the bees and their movers in the dark).
Dad and I each received a couple of stings in the process of unloading the hives, but we managed to complete the job. The bees prospered in their new home, civil relations with the neighbors was restored, and mowing the yard reverted to the boring, humdrum activity that it should be.
In the many years since, beekeeping has continued to be an enjoyable hobby for me, and has provided a window upon the intriguing and often mysterious workings of nature. And I owe it all to my brother and his Bee Dance!