Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A sticky situation

‘Hey Glenn can you go photograph some bees?” That’s how some assignments come in no warning just a go there right now request. We had gotten a call that a group of bees had taken up residence some where in the Opera House building on Central Avenue. Sounded simple enough, I expected a small group of bees buzzing around a window or something. How about several thousand swarming inside a wall?

Turns out about a year ago somehow, maybe through a hole in a pipe a group of bees entered a second floor room and made their home. Busy little bees they were as they began building their hive complete with honeycombs. Lots of honeycombs.

So we walk into this small room to see a section of wall cut out to reveal the honeycomb, an elaborate structure six or seven layers deep spanning about 6 feet across and a foot long. Busy bees indeed. Someone had noticed a few stray bees and then there was that peculiar buzzing sound coming from the wall. Not a good sign. A local beekeeper and his son arrived to smoke the squatters out and remove the sticky honeycombs hanging from the wall.

Now this was as weird a sight as you can imagine. There is a hole in the wall with this giant beehive growing out of the hole. The room’s windows are closed to keep all the bees in as they buzz angrily around the room. There are bees on the windowsill, the window screen, the ceiling, the wall and a thick carpet of them clinging to the sections of the honeycomb. The beekeeper, an 83-year veteran with 40 years of bee wrangling under his belt and his son use a shop vacuum to suck the bees out of their lair and into a bucket for transport to a new hive. And if this wasn’t a weird site enough the walls were dripping honey.

No kidding the walls dripped honey. Little amber colored rivulets would fall from the ceiling and drip through the hole. It was eerie watching the chunks of honeycomb dripping their cargo pulled from the wall. I kept thinking of that movie where Richard Widmark uses a flamethrower to kill a swarm of mutant murderous bees attacking him in a room (I always wondered why he didn’t use a can of insecticide instead of the flamethrower but whatever).

I have to admit I am afraid of bees. I don’t like anything that can dive bomb you with a stinger so I was more than hesitant to get close to the hive. That’s why God invented the telephoto lens, to photograph bees from a distance. I did muster up enough courage for a few close-ups; I figured if the bees swarmed I would throw the closest civilian into their path. Its everyman for himself when bees are concerned.

The beekeepers son was hard at work sucking as many bees as he could from the hive. He was stung twice, once above the eye and once in the hand. He looked at me and offered me the vacuum nozzle wondering if I wanted to give it a try. Was he kidding? Forget the bees, give me the grass fires and gang shooting scenes, I want to work where it is safe!

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