I’m not a nature girl.

I mean, I like nature.  From a distance.  It’s pretty.  But I’m not a camper.  And, late at night, I’ve always been more comforted by the sounds of the city streets over the sounds of crickets outside.

Bugs, in particular, are not my thing. I know they’re not most people’s thing (except for you budding entomologists out there) — but they are really not my thing.  Bees scare the hell out of me.  Correction:  One bee scares me.  I’m that person who, against all advice, does the spastic, desperate arm flapping and yelling when a bee is nearby.  You know, *that* person.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when P realized we have a bees’ nest inside a giant tree in our backyard.  It’s a big ass tree — probably 80-100 feet high.  It’s old and imposing and provides lots of shade.  And, there, on the side, about 30 feet up, is a clear entry point where the bees fly in and out of their deluxe accommodations.

Since the nest is conveniently located right over the kids’ swing set, we called the pest control folks to see if they could treat it.  It was going to require ladders and hoses and stuff.  By “stuff,” I mean cash.

When they came to treat it, we hit a roadblock.  They are honeybees, which are endangered.  You’re not supposed to kill them.  So I had two choices:

1) Leave it alone.  Honeybees are, after all, docile in nature, I was told.

2) Find a honeybee specialist or beekeeper to scale the giant tree and extract the hive.

I’m sorry, but I wasn’t going to leave it alone.  I’ll take Curtain #2, for the win, Chuck.

As with anything on the Internet, you quickly discover the passion that some people have for subjects you never spent a moment thinking about.  Like beekeeping.  I found a local guy online and contacted him — I’ll call him The Bee Dude.  He’d be over the next morning to have a look at the tree.

Great!  Progress.

And then.


About two hours after I called The Bee Dude, I was in my kitchen.  It was a sunny afternoon so I thought it was odd that, out the window, I seemed to be seeing something like rain.  Brown rain.  Raining dirt?  It took me a few seconds to realize…



I did not have the wherewithal at that moment to take a photo (which confirms my suspicion that I will also never be the gal videotaping an oncoming twister because I’ll be too busy peeing my pants and screaming).  But in my hours of post-apocalyptic online research, I learned that I had witnessed a swarm of a honeybee colony.  And I also found this picture, which looks exactly like what I saw.

{Photo source: Wikipedia}

It lasted only five minutes but it was one of the freakiest things I’d ever seen.

Well, until my neighbor called me an hour later, her voice kind of shaky.  I figured she was calling because she had seen the swarm too.


“Hey, uh, you know that tree [this is a different tree from the original large one I mentioned] in between our driveways?”


“Uh, can you, uh, take a look out your window and tell me if you see what I’m — “


“Bees!  Everywhere!  What the hell is that?”

She had managed to take a photo from inside her car.  It was this.

Maybe you guys have seen something like this before.  Maybe you’re all “Hey, it’s a hive on the move.  No biggie.”  If you are one of those people, please forgive my histrionics.  Because when I tell you I went batshit crazy at that point, I’m kind of understating it.

I still can barely look at the photo.  My friend described it as Biblical, which I think about sums it up.

Is it just me whose skin is crawling from this?  It can’t be just me, right?  It was like a horror movie.  Do you remember Candyman?  Uggghhhh.

So while I was trying to distract my mind that night from the mental image of the End of Days swarm outside my house, I read up on this whole phenomenon.  In a nutshell, when the colony gets too crowded, about half of the bees leave with the queen (this is when they swarm) and find a temporary place to land for a few days.  During this time, they all gather around the queen to protect her, while they send out scout bees to find a new location for their colony.  They leave a virgin queen behind in the old nest so she can take over.

Holy shit, it’s just like high school, isn’t it?

Anyway.  We survived until morning without my nightmares of bees boring through the walls of  my house coming to bear.  And The Bee Dude showed up early the next day, as promised.

I hadn’t told him about the swarm development since we last spoke.  He saw it and was like a kid in a candy store.  Or in a honeycomb, I guess.

He insisted we cut the Shock and Awe/End of Days conversation short so he could put on his swarming gear.  Because, in his words, “Every minute we spend not collecting this swarm is a minute the scout bees could locate a new home for the colony.  Possibly in a nook of your house.”

Oh.  Carry on, then.  I’ll just wait inside.

{Why didn’t we build a panic room as part of our basement renovation?  Why?}

And then a live episode of National Geographic unfolded in my backyard.  The Bee Dude was in full gear and managed to get all of the bees into his trusty box within a half an hour or so.  The key is to make sure you get the queen — to ensure that all the others follow.

See?  Just like high school.

My photos are not great because there was a window screen in.  And, as much as I like all of you, I sure as hell was not going outside to snap some higher quality pictures for your benefit.  You understand.

So The Bee Dude removed all 30,000 of the bees protecting their queen.

Yes.  30,000.  That’s what he said.

And that’s when I thought about the tidbit I read the night before that only half of the bees leave the original colony in a swarm.  Which means…there are still…

OH MY GOD.  There are still 30,000 bees in the original giant tree?

At that point, The Bee Dude, who clearly loves nature more than most, looked me in the eye and recommended that I have the giant tree taken down.  ASAP.  Because a colony that size has certainly hollowed out and compromised the structural integrity of the huge branch that hovers over my house.  Oh, and the virgin queen is laying 2,000 new eggs a day.

Seriously?  She is not messing around.

So now I’m in what I can only describe as a Nature Clusterfuck, which involves various tree removal companies and the pest control people.  The tree guys won’t touch the tree with 30,000 live bees inside (OK, fair point).  And the pest control guys won’t exterminate because of the endangered species issue.  Even though I did my good deed for Beekind and saved 30,000 of them this week.  They went to a very nice home in a neighboring town.  I was even promised jars of honey this fall.

We’re at an impasse.  Just waiting for the virgin queen to ascend to power and the after swarms and a Candyman sequel in my yard.

I’m so not a nature girl.



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  1. Krinn says:

    That is unbelievable!!! I’d be petrified to leave my house until they were all gone and I’d never get my children out the door. We had a bee experience about 5 years ago. Connor was outside playing (he was 4 at the time) and somehow disturbed a nest of cicada killer bess. The swarmed him. He was terrified – it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. These are some serious bees – they can measure 5 inches long. After saving Connor (who escaped unstung)I was immediately on the phone to our pest control company who days later fixed the problem with a healthy dose of chemicals. We really hate bees!!!

    • fordeville says:

      I’m sorry, did you say “cicada killer bees”? I’m so creeped out that my brain can’t even process this. I’m typing in the fetal position right now.

    • I know what cicadas are, but I’ve never heard of cicada killer bees. Had to look that up. Wow! Learn something new every day. Even when you don’t want to. 😉

      • fordeville says:

        I don’t have the nerve to look it up. I know what cicadas are, and I’ll use the “killer bees” context clues to know that I do *not* need a visual of this situation. I would never sleep again.

  2. tara says:

    HOLY GOD! This is my worst nightmare.

    Seriously, no one tells you this shit about home ownership. ARGH!

  3. Aunt Barbara says:

    I gather you’re having Saturday’s birthday party INDOORS?! Please say ‘yes’!

    • fordeville says:

      No, why? We’re just going to coat the deck with pollen and honey, put out the fruit plates, and see what happens. I think it will be fine 😉

  4. Beth says:

    That picture of all the bees on the tree? Yeah, that’s about where I would have peed my pants. I’ll eat your honey, bees, but please make it from the confines of those boxed beehives.

    Holy wow.

    • fordeville says:

      Even though the bees have been removed, I still peer out my window at that tree a few times a day, expecting to see a Revenge Swarm. I think the remaining colony members are stalking me out of spite.

  5. Steve Lemson says:

    This is totally cool! I’ve consulted the resident entomologist who informs me that the proper scientific term for the virgin queen is actually “Welfare Queen,” the derivation of which I didn’t quite follow. Anyway, no chemicals on the bees, please. You’ll only end up with a new species of chemical-loving bees which would imperil the entire economy of the state of New Jersey.

    • fordeville says:

      You’re right. I’ll get them all boxed up and send them over to you to increase native NYC honey production.

  6. Beth says:

    Oh. My. God. I have no words for the horror.

  7. I am a nature girl. I am a camper. I love to sit out and watch the furry little honey bees do their thing. But this post freaked the hell out of me when I read it earlier today. Hours later, I still have goosebumps. The return to NJ has turned into quite the adventure for you. What’s next? Raccoons in the attic? Black bear on the front lawn? Coyotes scraping at the basement windows?

  8. Loukia says:

    Oh, my GOD. I will have nightmares now, I swear! I have been stung three times in my life, and that includes once this year ALREADY. I couldn’t handle a swarm of them! They terrify me, as do all insects, as do all ‘nature’ things. I, like you, enjoy nature from a distance… or from my beach cabana! 😉

  9. Teri says:

    Kim, a few years back I saw a swarm of cicada killer wasps (not bees, they were wasps) and they were the freakiest things I had EVER seen. HUGE effing things!!! Luckily they were not at my house, but at another house in our neighborhood that we looked at but ultimately ended up NOT purchasing. I got down on my knees and thanked sweet baby Jesus that we didn’t buy that house, because if we had, I’d be packing up my belongings and getting the hell out of Dodge!

    About YOUR bees (yes, they are YOURS!) can’t the beekeeper guy come back and get the other 30000 out of the big tree?

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