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Bee hive suggests warm, dry winter ahead

Published: Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 11:24 a.m. CDT

With my last name of Swarm, as you might expect, I’m used to a lot of references to  bees. Growing up, I was known as Bee Swarm, or just plain Bee. 

When my parents had their 50th wedding anniversary, with all the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids in attendance, their cake said, “50 Years of Making Honey.”  When I tell someone my name, especially over the phone, and they say, “Huh?” I just say, “Swarm, as in swarm of bees.” “Oh.”

So, it wasn’t all that surprising when I got a phone call from a farmer over by New London telling me that he had the strangest bee hive, and that I just had to see it.  (Plus, I have a byline at the end of my weekly column, asking for stories.) 

On a beautiful fall day, I ventured over New London way, and woke the farmer from his afternoon nap. On the way to the bee hive in his four-wheeler, the farmer explained that he’s 83 years old and has never seen a bee hive like this one.

When we arrived, I had to agree. I have never seen anything like this. As the farmer described it, the hive is about the size of a bushel basket, and looks like elephant ears layered together, exposed to the elements. 

Here it is fall, the nights are  colder, and the bees are busy working on the hive like everything is normal. (Busy as a bee.) How the bees ever expect to last through the winter, is a question both the farmer and I have. I snapped some pictures.

The next day, I took the pictures into the county extension office and they said, “Da.”

I remembered an old buddy who is an apiarist. For those of you who don’t know what an apiarist is (I had to look it up), an apiarist is a bee keeper. My friend just goes by the name of “Buzz.” Buzz took one look at the pictures, snorted, and said, “It’s going to be a warm winter.”

In response to my questioning look, Buzz scratched his whiskery jaw and said, “I’ve had bees do that, nest outside of a shelter, like a tree trunk, or box. When they do that, it’s because they ‘think’ it’s going to be a warm winter. With the drought we’ve had, they’re probably right. It’s going to be a warm, dry winter.” 

Buzz rubbed his shoulders, and said, “Good.”

I asked him about the yellow stripes on the bees’ abdomen, not typical of the average honey bee. “Russian bees,” he snorted again. They were imported around the turn of the century, 20th century, that is. They just make a nuisance of themselves.”

A little background on Buzz: a few years ago, when the alarm went out that honey bees were disappearing from the wild, and we depend on bees for pollination, I queried Buzz for an explanation as to their disappearance.

“Cell phone towers,” he snapped. “The bees are getting zapped in mid air.”

I went home and Googled “Bee Hives.” Sure ‘nuff, a picture of a nest popped up that looked just like the nest on the New London farm. The caption under the picture read, “Hawaii.”

So, you heard it first right here, folks, from Bee Swarm. It’s going to be a warm, dry winter.

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