People who don’t keep bees think this is weird, but one of the relaxing things we do around here at Maywood is to go down by the bees and just watch them. It’s a nice spot for sitting, down the hill from the house, tucked back in the woods. It’s very secluded ( in spite of the highway zipping by!) and a perfect place to forget about the aggravations of the day. We put chairs down there and I’m thinking we might need a little table to set our drinks on. Son-in-law Chris is freaked out by the thought of hanging out with thousands of bees, but they are busy doing their thing and we aren’t threatening them, so they don’t bother with us. The real bother is biting insects if I don’t put on bug spray, although John’s cloud of cigar smoke is usually enough protection for him. John goes down there after work every day “to check on the bees,” but it’s really to unwind. He has, however, observed some fascinating things about bee behavior.
Sometimes we observe bees crawling along the ground near our chairs. Upon closer examination, John has noticed that these bees have damaged wings, not unlike the genetic defect he observed eons ago in his high school biology fruit fly study and what Harper observed when his butterfly hatched from the chrysalis with a deformed wing. These bees can’t fly. We assumed that they crawled their way from the hive to our chairs. Not so. They were escorted from the hive. Banished. John watched recently as two bees flew from the hive carrying another bee. They deposited the bee on the ground in the area where we usually find the crawling bees. Then they flew back. John examined the bee and it was one with a defective wing. Apparently, in the bee society, if you can’t work, you can’t eat. And if you are banished from the hive, you will die.
The other day John observed a carpenter bee enter a hive. We are not fans of carpenter bees. They are large clumsy bees that bore holes into our log siding. (The treatment for this is to squirt WD-40 into every single hole. Are you kidding me?) So this carpenter bee went into a honeybee hive. John is surprised that it even fit into the opening, but it did. One stupid carpenter bee visiting thousands of honeybees. It wasn’t long before a ball of bees exited the hive with the carpenter bee at the center of the ball. Bouncers! The carpenter bee fell to the ground, stunned, and the bouncers went back into the hive. Except for two. John watched as two honeybees carried the carpenter bee off and away from the scene. Arrested for disorderly conduct, I suppose.