Back from Extinction

I recently rescued a colony of bees that were starving to death with no hope of survival. One would say this colony has been spared extinction.

I returned from vacation to find an answering machine full of message. Two of the messages were from a woman requesting a bee removal.

One of my hobbies is keeping bees. I have been trained to keep colonies of bees in hives. I also have been trained to catch swarms of bees, and I have been trained to remove colonies of bees from structures where they are not welcome.

Any colony of bees will swarm when they feel overcrowded in their current hive. The workers begin to rear new queens from fresh bee eggs, and half of the population of the hive, fills their stomachs with honey and flies off with the old queen. The remaining bees continue life with a new queen.

The bees who fly off with the old queen is known as a swarm. Generally they fly a short distance and land in a cluster on a tree branch or other handy support. A swarm of bees generally looks like a soccer ball size cluster of bees hanging from a branch. Having flown with full stomaches, they are resting, with the queen safely tucked in the middle of the cluster. Meanwhile scouts are out looking for a new home.

At the point where the bees are resting in a cluster, it is relatively easy to spray them with sugar water. This makes it difficult for them to fly. The next step is to brush the bees into a box. I take the box home and dump the bees into a furnished hive box. If I have been successful at capturing the queen, I then have another hive of bees.

The problem comes when no beekeeper captures the swarm. In that case, the scouts come back with reports on available living space. Somehow a decision is made and the entire cluster of bees flies off together. It is quite a sight. The thousands of bees involved make quite a noise. They fly to the new home and move in. Now this may be a hollow tree, but it could be a hole in the wall of a building or vehicle. Needless to say, a colony of bees is not welcome in the wall of your home or the wall of a rail road locomotive. This leaves the homeowner or railroad management with two options: 1. Hire a beekeeper to open the wall and remove the bees with their brood combs and honey combs. This is known as a bee removal. 2. Hire an terminator to kill the bees. The second option is not encouraged for environmental reasons, and frequently the next swarm will move into this location where bees previously lived.

Needless to say, there is a fee for the beekeeper’s services, and the beekeeper usually gets a new hive of bees and some honey.

In the current instance, I responded to the address of the lady to find a dirt-poor family living in a trailer on the desert. In good conscience, I could not charge a fee, but I did not want the lady’s family stung either. I did the job with the expectation of a new hive of bees and some honey. The man of the house had recently moved a camper onto his property so that he could make repairs for the owner. One of the water tanks on this camper contained the bees. The water tank was not easy to reach, so I chose to take the entire tank. With the help of the man of the house, we removed the tank and put it on my truck. I was amazed how light it was. Honey is pretty heavy.

It appears that a bee swarm had moved into the tank while the camper was parked in the Rio Grande River valley. The camper was then moved to a location on the desert about 10 miles from the river valley. At this time of the year, nothing is blooming on the desert.

I used my saw to cut open the polypropylene water tank. I found a small number of wax combs but no brood and no honey. I had struck out. After all that work, I had no fee, no honey and a bunch of starving bees. These bees faced a winter with no food stores.

I put a feeder full of sugar syrup into a hive and introduced the bees. My concern was that the bees were starving, and the queen may already have died. I had equipped the hive with frames, several of which contained drawn wax combs. Two days later, I opened the hive to find the bees much more vigorous and moving syrup from the feeder into the wax combs. This is the first step in making honey.

Yesterday, two weeks after rescuing the bees, I opened the hive again. I pulled one of the frames and was pleased to see a small cluster of comb cells that had been sealed with wax caps. Inside each sealed cell slept a pupating larva. Surrounding these were open cells with little white worms, bee larvae. The quantity of new life was not large, but it assured me that the colony contains a queen who has recovered from her fast and has started laying eggs. I may have a new hive to work with next year.

I suppose what I witnessed was a metaphor for redemption. This metaphor could be interpreted to be either physical or spiritual redemption. Something bigger and more powerful than the bees saved them from death by providing them with shelter and food. In our lives we frequently find ourselves being rescued or redeemed by a power higher than ourselves. God is omnipotent or all powerful. He can and will redeem us from sin if we only let him work in our lives.

Just to be complete, I need to mention that it is possible to attract swarms to a swarm trap. This box simulates a great new home for a swarm of bees. Often a swarm will move into the swarm trap rather than a building wall. The beekeeper can then relocate the bees to a hive. I rent swarm traps to homeowners and businesses.

Kill bees only as a last resort. Seek a beekeeper who will help you tame swarms and unwelcome bees.

In addition to being a beekeeper, Reynold Conger writes fiction as a retirement career. You may be interested in reading about his books on his web page,


About Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher. Now writing fiction. His books are CHASED ACROSS AUSTRALIA, MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR and REDUCING MEDICAL COSTS (AT THE COST OF HEALTH). He has also started a series of novelas called THE RICHARD TRACY SERIES. Residence: New Mexico, USA Hobbies: gardening, animals and running. website
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