The old house had been abandoned for years. Trees were growing through the windows. The roof was sagging, and a look through the window revealed that the upstairs floor had fallen into the floor below – just the old stairway along the far wall remained, with a small landing precariously still hanging on to the water-stained walls.
In short, the place was a death-trap.
Well, we owned it. It came with the twenty-five acres of river property we purchased. The question was, what do we do about it?
A few phone calls later and the fire department offered to burn it down as a “practice fire” for a small donation. Well, this seemed a great solution, but a thriving bee colony lived inside and outside the wall near the front door.
Clearly we could not kill the bees, so more phone calls, and we had a bee man who was scheduled to put the bees in a hive and move the colony to safety.
“He doesn’t look much like a bee man,” I thought a few days later as I met John Snowden at the “bee house.” He was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Not much protection, but he did have a mesh net over his face. He had brought a helper, and he wore the complete bee suit. John produced a bee vacuum from his truck and proceeded to “plug it in” by fastening alligator clips to the voltage inverter powered by his truck battery.
Soon John had a ladder placed against the old house and began vacuuming the bees, which were crawling outside the hive. I sat in my truck some yards away and watched as John vacuumed more and more bees from the house. Soon bees began swarming out of the hive, and their hum intensified as more and more bees filled the air around him.
Before long, there were thousands of bees buzzing around him – the volume of buzzing had risen to a place that could only be called angry!
I began to think John would surely be attacked, but he continued in a calm manner to vacuum bees from the air and from the wooden siding of the house. Bees were everywhere around the man, yet he remained very much at peace.
Perhaps the bees sensed his peace, because in short order they seemed to move from their frenzied buzzing volume to a low hum, as if they accepted what he was doing.
About this time, John reached in his back pocket, pulling out a small pry bar. Soon he was prying the siding off the house! First one piece, then another was removed until the bee hive was completely exposed. At one point I saw him swat his back – but John turned to me and said, “An ant just bit me!” Next he used a putty knife and, reaching into the hive with his bare left hand and prying the hive apart with his right hand, he removed one section after another. Once removed, he would carefully inspect it, looking for the queen, and hand it to his helper to be placed in the box.
In a short time, John had removed the entire hive from the house, found the queen bee, and carefully placed her and the all the bees in his box to be moved to a place far from the soon-to-be-burned house. It was a sight I have never forgotten.
About a week later, I was once again sitting in my truck near the old abandoned house. I watched as the fire department set fire to the house, put it almost out, let the fire grow again, to again put it almost out. Practicing their skills, they finally let the flames consume the mostly-wooden structure. Flames were 50 feet in the air.
My thoughts in seeing the totally-engulfed inferno returned to the bees. I remembered their angry, frenzied buzzing when they were being “helped.” Little did they know while their home was being destroyed that they were in fact being saved.
There have been times in my life that I have felt like those bees…that my life was being destroyed. Turns out, the Beekeeper was moving me to a much better place.