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Hive Mentality

Skydive-15 Briar, one of my twins, has an almost paralyzing fear of bees. Last year at a park she was stung by a bee that had flown down the back of her shirt. Seriously, of all the places that a bee could fly, why it would choose flying down a five year old’s shirt is beyond my comprehension.

This fear has hindered her desire to play outside on the recent gorgeous Texas days we’ve been enjoying. It has been a trial because she’ll run from things like flies or even the occasional butterfly she spots out of the corner of her eye. Simply walking to the car with her can be difficult, with her clinging to me as we walk across the porch and down the stairs to the van, while she flinches at wasps and bees.

And the bees and wasps are EVERYWHERE!  I had a photo session at the park one time where my subject was stung by one of the hundreds of bees flying around. We had to relocate the session to my house where the bee situation wasn’t quite as dire.

All this brings me to the bee photos I took on Sunday. Rob went skydiving (I will be discussing that in next week’s Mad Art Lab post) and when he arrived at Skydive Dallas he texted me to let me know that there was a massive swarm of bees flying around, like the kind you would see in cartoons chasing Winnie the Pooh after they find out he’s no rain cloud.

“Oh, boy”, I thought. Briar was going to flip.

The rest of us arrived at Skydive Dallas later so we could watch Rob and his brother do their dive. As far as I saw there were no bees to be found. Then Rob told me to go over to the tall tree and look. That was when I saw this:

The bees are gathering around the queen to protect her on their day trip.

Rob said it was strange because the bees were flying around in a big swarm, but by the time the rest of us had arrived, they all gathered around on the branch of a tree in a big hive-looking formation. We were curious what this was about.

Most likely this swarm is part of a colony that was stopping for a few days to rest on their quest to find a new location for their hive. Throughout the year, the queen lays eggs in “queen cups”. These cups will produce future queens for the hive. Before the new queens are born, about 60% of the worker bees will leave with the old queen to create a new hive. As bees prepare to swarm and find another location, the queen (being too large to fly long distances) stops laying eggs and workers stop feeding her so she will be ready to fly with the swarm when they leave the old hive. Before the new virgin queens emerge from the cups, the swarm departs. During this swarming time, bees are not usually aggressive, unless they feel an immediate threat.

The swarm may look frightening, but it’s the circle of life. Briar was completely unaware of the swarm in the tree and we weren’t about to tell her. They were pretty much harmless as long as we didn’t poke them with a stick or anything. I actually saw very few bees flying around, if any, that weren’t in the tree.

In closing, I would like to add that honey is bee barf. See you next week!

Gigi Chickee

All photos are taken by me, Gigi Chickee, unless otherwise noted. Photography Correspondent here at Mad Art Lab. Wife to my gorgeous husband, Rob. Mother to my four girls. Proud Secular Homeschooler. Photographer when the occasion arises. Seamstress in training. Skeptic always. Follow me and my musings on Twitter: @gigichickee

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