Published on August 11, 2020

I know you want to BEE here, but you’ll have to move

By Jan Edwards
The Bulletin

Bees – specifically honeybees.

I’ve been living where our electric company refers to as “the end of the earth” for 20 years. Yep, I live way out in the country. In all that time, I never thought much about honeybees until recently when some very domestic (thank goodness) honeybees built quite a hive under our stilt house.

It was built out in the open – hiding in plain sight.

For several weeks, visitors told us bees were swarming downstairs, but we thought they meant back by where the kayaks were hung on the back wall (where a hive was built between the siding and the inside wall before).

We checked there – and no bees, but the sightings went on for weeks, and we never saw a new hive. It was in the framework Roy had to pass to mow, and he had mowed twice since we figured that the bees settled there. He never saw the hive, nor was he bothered by worried bees.

So, when I finally saw what looked like a swarm of bees around the piling, I walked around to investigate and finally saw their hive. Yikes! The bees had been working there for some time. The hive hung to the piling and the rafter – working bees and layers of honeycomb. I turned tail and went upstairs to tell Roy we had to do something. I am extremely allergic to bee stings.
Because my friend, Kristin, had taken up beekeeping, also known as apiculture, we had gone to the Brazoria County Honey Expo several times and knew who to call to come get the hive in order to save them.

Then, I began to think about my honeybee experiences. My attitude sure has changed in the last 20 years.

Since moving here, we have experienced swarming bees several times with differing results. I think the first experience with bees was two houses down at the Schuble’s house. They had a high deck going from the house to the river’s edge and had boarded up the underdeck, but didn’t seal it. It seems like once a year for several years at least, one huge swarm of bees worked in-between the deck and the underdeck.

Since they had kids, and folks were afraid of Africanized bees, they washed them out with soap and water, and sometimes they used insecticides for several years. (Don’t do this. Call an expert to relocate the hive.)

That’s when I learned that if anything of the hive is left, bees will come back to that location. And come back they did, until the Shubles took out the underdeck completely, replaced it and sealed it.

The next swarm that visited them, not able to get back under the deck, swarmed Judgie’s truck. He wanted to save the bees, so in the cool of the morning, he slipped into the truck and drove as fast as he could down FM 2918 trying to shake them off. But some bees came through the air vent and started stinging him.

When he thought he had lost the bees, he returned home to find they were still on the truck – but now they were mad.
I think he used soap, water and a pressure washer to get rid of them that time. (Again, get help and relocate the hive. Don’t kill the bees. Back in those days, this type of information was not readily available.)

My first experience with bees at our house came when Roy and I were on the dock fishing. We saw an undulating black line headed straight for our house. We could not make out what it was, so I ran half-way up the steps to the deck to get a better look.

Standing there, I heard and felt a weird, loud buzzing sound of thousands of honeybees passing around me. I ran upstairs, grabbed the dog and went inside the house. It was a swarm of bees on the move to a new destination. I’m glad they weren’t stopping over. That was scary.

Then there was the time they swarmed on the neighbor’s oleander bush. The bees were just resting. They would have moved on, but the neighbor was expecting grandkids, so he tried spraying them with insecticides and was stung for his effort. Then he got a power washer with lots of soap and killed lots of them.

Once when Kristin was down working on a painting job for us - and crabbing and fishing – she, Roy and I were setting up the big pot to boil crabs when I felt something crawling up inside my capri pants leg. I tried brushing down, hoping whatever it was would leave. It was still for a minute, then the crawling up began again. I brushed it harder this time. It was still for a bit longer. Then the crawling began again. I brushed harder then, and it began to sting me.

I shucked those britches right there in broad daylight. I didn’t care who was looking. I had to get the stinging to stop. As the pants came off, the honeybee fell out, but his stinger and venom sack were still attached to my leg and still stinging. We went upstairs and removed it with tweezers.

I took an over-the-counter antihistamine and put a topical antihistamine on the sting. But the next day, the spot was painful, angry red, swelling and getting bigger. Yep, I was allergic to bee stings and had to visit a doctor for a heavy-duty antihistamine shot and topical application.

But back to our most recent visitors I mentioned earlier. Shane Pirtle, who is in the Brazoria County Beekeepers Association, came and salvaged this hive. He and his wife also came and relocated another smaller hive before this one.

I’m glad that Shane could save these hives. Bee pollination is important economically and ecologically, and bees are disappearing in alarming numbers. Without them, none of us would eat, and that is also why managed hives of honeybees are cropping up and are so important.

If you are interested in honeybees or in learning how to keep them, you can contact:

Brazoria County Beekeepers Association, Brazoria County Extension Office, 21017 CR 171, Angleton, Texas, 77515-8903. Email: bcba@brazoria-county-beekeepers-association.com.

(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)