Grammatically Challenging Little Suckers

I think I’ve probably inspected the bees for the final time this season. Now we give the colony time to set its hive in order for winter. Which means it’s time for the colony to propolize the gaps between the boxes and to move honey to wherever it’s wanted and to cap the honey for safekeeping until needed.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Let me interrupt this lesson on “propolis”—which was where this post was headed and which you can look up on your own if you’re so interested in learning more about it right this second—because I need to share with you something that’s giving me fits.

For me, writing about bees is made difficult because of three things:

  1. Bees, of course, are singular creatures. However, the single bee is usually not the focus of my conversations nor of my attention. The bees (plural) are the focus of our efforts here. But the (plural) bees operate as a (single) unit called “the colony” or “the hive.” So, while the “bee” is grammatically singular—as is the hive or the colony—“bees” are plural. I am constantly going back to change sentences or pronouns from plural to singular and vice versa. I stop myself almost every sentence to ask, “Am I talking here about the bees (plural) or about the colony (singular)?” It drives me nuts. ┬áBut it’s this increasing awareness—that the colony is composed of thousands of individual bees operating as a single organism—which intrigues me beyond measure.
  2. Now I can’t remember the second thing that gives me fits. I’ll let you know when it rears its ugly head again, though.
  3. Which word to use—“hive” or “colony.” (But because this post has already gone on long enough, I’ll save this nomenclature challenge for next time.)
P.S. I know, Reader, that you may now wish to scrutinize my grammar and punctuation. Go for it. I’ll let you know right this second that I don’t necessarily follow the rules. Which is why I had to resign from my last job. And which is why you may notice sparse use of commas.
Honeybee swarm

From "Colony" to "Swarm" to "Colony"

I don’t love the telephone. However, these past few months I get a lot of calls about bees, and I like those calls a lot. Why? I don’t know…maybe because I’m never sure what situation will present itself, and that’s fun. These past couple of weeks, I’ll bet I get 2 or 3 calls each week about “swarms of bees” somewhere. A couple of months ago, this number was higher.

But what the callers usually describe are not swarms of bees. You see, Reader, a swarm is a very specific term used for bees in the midst of migrating from one home to another. Before they swarm, they’re part of a colony of bees. When they leave that colony and set up a new home, they’ll once again be a colony of bees. While they’re between the two—while migrating—they’re considered a swarm. They move from “colony” to “swarm” to “colony.”

A swarm is usually spotted hanging in a big, droopy, living, breathing blob on a tree branch or a light post or some other structure on which it’s easy to hang together. The swarm waits there for about 12-48 hours until the scout bees decide on a new home; once the new home is found…poof!…the swarm is gone in a blink of an eye. While it hangs there, however, a swarm of bees seems both awesome and scary (I call it “sublime”), so people call a beekeeper about it.

Honeybee swarm
Honeybee swarm

There’s a swarm season, Reader. Bees in Ohio usually swarm during our spring months…April through June.

I’ve discovered that people who call me about “a swarm” (when we’re not in swarm season) really mean to report “a lot of bees swarming around” their roofline or their doorframe or their soffit; the bees have been “swarming” for a while, and the caller is worried. Well, Reader, this is not a swarm…remember, a swarm doesn’t yet have a home of its own. The good news is this: The bees these callers call about already have a nice home. The bad news for the caller is this: The bees’ home is also the caller’s home.

This post is getting too long, so I’ll finish it tomorrow.