There are times in my life that I am given the gift of distraction. Sometimes distraction works well when the rest of life is a bit overwhelming. It also may bring with it small miracles, new friends and lessons, always lessons.
Chemotherapy is not fun. Mix it with radiation and it becomes even less fun. After Jim was diagnosed with salivary glad cancer, he had to endure a summer of this mix. It was a challenge and not much fun, at all.
Enter the major distraction of that summer. One afternoon at the end of June I was working in the yard when I happened to look down and there were bees swarming around my legs. They were not landing, I was just being paid a lot of close attention. I noticed they were going under our shed in the backyard. When I informed Jim that I thought there were honey bees under the shed, he brushed it off and said they were probably miner bees and would be gone in 6 weeks.
The next few days showed increased bee activity and still Jim’s response was unchanged. I finally took a few photos of the bees and started to do my own research. The following Saturday there was a free lecture on bees at one of the local library branches. I informed Jim that we were going to the talk. I knew if I went alone he might still doubt the outcome.
Enter Eric, the man that both of us quickly labeled the bee whisperer. He confirmed my suspicions that we did indeed have a hive of honey bees under our shed. We wanted to remove the hive, alive. Eric came to the house and after observing the shed and the bees he gave us three options.
- Cut the floor out of the shed and he could remove them. Nope, Jim didn’t like this idea.
- Lift the shed up on that side and work with removing the hive that way. Nope, Jim didn’t like that idea either.
- Since we had already put a fine mesh screen around the bottom of the shed, Eric suggested putting in a one way bee door. This would allow the bees to come out but not to go back in. We would put a portable hive outside so that the bees might find a new home. Then we had to wait for the queen, herself, to emerge.
Jim chose option number 3. I, also, was good with this option. So began the six week saga of removing the bees. This was a practice in patience. The first bee door did not work, so we tried again. Eric would come by about every third night to see how things were progressing. We became friends with Eric. Jim and he had wonderful long conversations about many common interests. What I appreciated was that Eric never asked what was going on with Jim, they just got to know each other as people.
As more and more of the bees could not get back into the hive they started hanging in a huge clump on the side of the shed. On one of Eric’s stops at the house he brought a spray bottle with something that bees don’t like the smell of and sprayed it on the clump of bees on the shed. He did this in hopes that the bees would check out the portable hive and think it was a good alternative. With a huge swarm of bees circling above, Eric walked to the hive and got down on his knees and said “Oh look the girls are fanning their wings” He told us that the wing fanning meant they were sending out pheromones to let the swarm know they had found an alternative home. Within five minutes the bees were in the hive. It was amazing to watch.
Click on the photos above and it will become a slideshow.
A few nights later I noticed all these bees hanging on the side of the portable hive. Eric was called. When he arrived he took the lid off the portable hive and noted that the queen was inside. Success!!!! There were about 20,000 bees in that hive. Whoa! It took about 6 weeks for this to occur. After waiting a few more days, one night, after dark, Eric arrived, climbed into his bee keeping suit, smoked them so they would be drowsy, bungie corded the hive and took them to their new home in Rancho Santa Fe.
When Jim completed chemo and radiation and was feeling more normal, he spent an afternoon cleaning out the hive from under the shed. It was amazing the number of combs that he pulled out. It was a major hive, successfully removed. Once all of this was finished we re-meshed the whole underside of the shed and once again, were free of bees.
For most of the summer Jim and I stood on the deck every day and watched the bees. We had major discussions of what we would do if the alternative we chose did not work. Both of us looked forward to Eric’s visits. And, both of us learned a lot about bees. We felt good, because we had saved a hive of honey bees. For those of you who are not aware, honey bees are endangered. It is important to save every single one.
The summer of the bees was a great distraction for Jim and myself. Rather than focusing inward, which is not uncommon, in times of crisis, we were given the opportunity to continue to be part of the larger world, thanks to Eric and the honey bees. We had a story to tell to our friends and family. There was something we needed to check on every day. Often you could find us sitting on the deck with our binoculars watching these little creatures do their thing. When Jim was feeling really awful, he would sit himself in one of the zero gravity chairs on the deck and watch. It got him outdoors and gave him a welcome distraction and something to tell his friends when he would meet them at the beach on Saturdays. Those little honey bees helped us make it through that summer, providing a most welcome distraction.
Praise Bees-Praise Distractions.