I’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Ruth and Stacey over at Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.
One of the best things about where I work is that I teach with some of the coolest colleagues you could ever imagine. When I heard about this story last week, I begged Mr. Vawter to write it up as a guest post for my blog so I could share it. True confession: I’m not writing this week’s Slice of Life, but you will be amazed at the story that unfolds.
I was in my 2nd period and received a message from our building and grounds “man in command” to call him. I wondered what awful thing I must have done to receive such a request. This is a “man” of ALL Business. No fun allowed! No Way! Never! Never! Annnnnnnnnnnnnyway during my passing period, I went to the messenger that contacted me, and I asked for any information as to what the matter was. She said she could not help with that. I figured I must have inadvertently miffed another helicopter parent. Oh well, I thought, I can only do what I can do, and making EVERYBODY happy is not one of the things I can do. I tried to forget about it. (I was feeling kinda tired.)
Shortly after third period began, my phone rang, and it was the “man.” He informed me that there was a swarm of bees directly outside the cafeteria of our county high school. He asked if I could take a look during my lunch and possibly get them rather than having the staff spray them. I was intrigued, excited, and thinking maybe he is not such bad “man” after all. I would ponder his manliness later. I was now totally consumed with the idea of procuring a swarm of bees to put in my yard. I LOVE BEES!
As soon as third period ended I informed my principal of the situation, and asked if I may get someone to cover my class in the event that I would not be back before fifth period. Since he is the BEST PRINCIPAL ever, he gave it the green light. After being strip searched at the gates of the high school (not really, I made that part up, but it makes me laugh, or maybe cough, I’m not really sure) I was taken to meet the girls. There they were in their entire golden brown blended splendor. They were hanging in a perfect football-size-cluster, swaying gracefully back and forth in the warm breeze. Truly one of God’s many misinterpreted gifts! After a few minutes of admiring them, the awesome maintenance crew at the high school offered a scissor lift to hoist me up. This was terrific. I was used to climbing trees with a handsaw and gunny sack, but that’s another story. They went to get the lift, and I went to get my bee stuff.
I decided to take pictures, so that I could show the students in my class. This was definitely a “teachable moment.” I was up and away on the lift with my hive balancing on the rail. It was windy and the lift was a bit jumpy, but it was trustworthy. I got straight up next to them. Fortunately they were clustered on several small twig-like branches. I decided to attempt to snip the twigs as gingerly as possible without breaking the ball. It was quite difficult balancing the hive on the rail with one hand/elbow and trying to cut and hold the twigs of the cluster. With wind blowing, lift swaying, and fingers moving I went for it. I made my first cut and was able to hold the twig with my left hand while cutting and balancing the hive with my right hand and elbow. The second and third would be a trick; no hands left. I tried for the old two-finger-twisty-grab-real –quick –thing and it flopped. After the next clip, the twig and portion of bees attached to it dropped to the floor of the lift. I broke the ball.
I did not panic because that would be a bad idea. If you have ever kept bees, you know that panic is not something you do. If you are a panic person, then you don’t mess with bees in the first place. Bees communicate by pheromones, so they smell panic and they get nervous. When they get nervous, I get more nervous. Long story short: lots of nervous honey bees equals the EMERGENCY ROOM! Been there done that: another story later. I took the majority of the remaining ball and gently placed it inside the frameless hive. I picked off a few more twigs that had bees clinging to the queen’s motherly scent, and placed them with the others. I waited and watched as bees were flying around the hive. I had the lid half way on to let the bees come and go. Many were buzzing all around trying to locate the momma. I didn’t see her, but I was hoping that she was in the box.
I decided to bring it on down. I started my decent. The old lift was trusty, but she certainly wasn’t much of ballet dancer, more of a clogger. Slowly we plopped downward in two to four feet drops. We got to the ground and I snaked myself under the hive and put it on the sidewalk to access the situation. All was the same basically, small fist-size-ball in the tree (scout bees that were returning to what was left of the queen’s scent), about 100 bees sleepily crawling on the bucket floor in another fist-size-ball, mostly football-sized-ball in hive with queen (hopefully), and a few buzzing around. This was acceptable I decided. (It had to be.) I scooped up what bees I could off of the bucket and gently brushed them off my glove in front of the hive. Many started to slowly wander in while others just sort of wondered in general I think.
Since my old S-10 had recently been totaled before Christmas while my daughter was waiting in traffic and another student (one of my former scholars) ran directly into the back of her while wrestling a water bottle, I didn’t really have a truck. I had our newest vehicle; it was a 2012 Chevy Equinox that we bought brand new because our minivan was about to go kerplunck on us. I had driven to work on this fine day and my wife was out of town at a conference for work. She wouldn’t be back for a few days. There wasn’t really much I could do. The Equinox is something I like and she loves. We switch vehicles back and forth whenever she wants or whatever is more practical. I decided I was going make it work.
I placed the hive in the back, closed the hatch and jumped in and took off. All the windows were down and were we on the road. I took off my gloves and veil, so that I could see and handle the wheel safely. I did still have my bee suit on though. I kept a close eye on my rearview mirror to monitor the number of bees that were starting to accumulate on the back window. It wasn’t bad. It was a small number which was normal and safe: just a few curious bees. If the back window started to become covered, then I knew that could be a problem. I did notice a few bees flying out the back windows as I approached the stoplight.
As I came to a stop in traffic, I wondered if anybody in the cars behind me and in the other lane were aware of me. It is funny how we become so consumed with ourselves that we have no idea what is going on around us all the time. I could picture a small child in a car seat looking over at me saying, “Look at the bees inside the nice car mommy.” She would respond, “Yes, that’s great honey,” (no pun intended) without ever taking a second to look at the weirdo in the white suit next her looking on nonchalantly. The other thought that naturally occurred to me was what if a police car got behind me. Was I breaking any laws? I am sure they could come up with something, but more than likely they would probably just sit and wonder if what they saw was really happening. “Hey Starsky, check that out, it almost looks likes bees crawling on the back window of that car in front us. Man I love Crispy Kremes. These are awesome!”
I only live about two miles from school, so we made it into the driveway in no time at all. I got out and quickly snapped some more photos for school. After setting up a few blocks in the backyard, I had the hive in place. The tools were back in the garage, and I was on my way back to school. Fifth period was almost over, but I made it back in time to tell the kids and thank the most awesome assistant ever for covering my class. I quickly loaded the pictures onto my computer and showed them to my sixth and seventh periods.
All and all it was a great experience. Honeybees are one of the great things in nature that constantly remind me that everything in life is connected. As I get older, each day I see this more and more. The examples are endless. I took a naturalist class second semester just to relax and have something fun to do in my “free time” to relax. It is funny because one of the instructors did this really cool activity about the ecosystem showing us how important diversity in nature is important. We stood in a circle and used a string to connect to as many people in the circle as possible (each of us held examples of different animals and plants). After we connected in as many ways as possible, we tugged on the string and felt how strongly supported it was from all areas of the circle. We slowly began to take out certain plants and animals until there were only the certain ones that people preferred. We tugged again and the string was unbalanced and weak. Lesson learned.
The funny thing is that the instructor was our county forester: he is Mr. McGriff, who is married to Mrs. McGriff, the creator of this blog and my good friend and colleague. Connection. When I got home from school I was excited to tell my family about the bees. My daughter, a junior at our high school, told me that her Spanish teacher was warning her students about the bees and was worried. Her teacher was going to call the central office. My daughter told her that I used to keep bees and to call me. Connection. She called the “man” and told him about me. Connection. The “man” called me and so the circle of life goes on and on.
As for the “man,” well maybe I have been a little harsh on him. He is like poison ivy in the food chain. He rubs some of us the wrong way and just irritates the crap out of us. While for others he is food that nourishes and satisfies. Life is a wonderful and mysterious thing. Every day I discover that I have more things to be thankful for, and I also discover everything happens for a reason. It may not be a reason that I understand or even like, but if I must accept it. Life is short and it is precious. Enjoy every minute of it. Happy Spring!
Mr. Matt Vawter is one of the awesome 7th grade language arts teachers at our school. I am excited to be working with him more closely next year as I am switching grade levels to teach 7th grade language arts. PS – I would have loved to see Mrs. Vawter’s face when she saw the pictures of bees in the back of the new car.