Because I'm a backyard beekeeper, my phone usually rings a lot more during mid-summer, and the calls I get really run the gamut. Some well-meaning folks ask whether Colony Collapse Disorder has wiped out my hives -- and I'm still able to tell them no, thank goodness. (CCD hasn't been documented in my state. . . yet.)

A few people ask whether I'm looking forward to that new Bee Movie that's coming out. That's another big no. Sure the trailer looks cute, but I just can't get past all those inaccuracies. Case in point, most of the film's hard-working bee characters are male, but in real bee society, the worker bees, nurse bees, undertaker bees -- most all of the bees in the hive -- are female. The male bees, called drones, don't actually do much of anything; their purpose is to mate with virgin queens. (I suppose accurately portraying the male bee's role would've earned Bee Movie an X-rating, and DreamWorks would hardly stomach that.)

I also hear from dozens of people panicked by swarms of bees in their trees, on shrubs, and in other inconvenient spots. Certainly, seeing a swarm of bees can be unsettling, and Hollywood has produced its share of bee-related B movies to stir us up. So I do what I can to calm my callers' nerves, make sure they actually have honest-to-goodness honeybees, and then come out to remove the swarm and install it in a new hive behind my garden.

I'm happy to say it was wonder and not fear that I recently heard from one man who discovered a colony of wild bees living inside a hollow tree. His neighbor had cut the old tree down, and, now grounded, a two-foot-tall section of the trunk was full of honey, honeycomb, and bees. Considering what he should do, the man leaned the natural hive up against another large tree and said he'd been watching the bees closely for a few days. I think he liked what he saw because he sounded downright happy when I told him he could just choose to leave them right where they were. "Maybe I'll cover the top with a board with a hole in it so they can come and go," he'd mused. That's how new beekeepers are made . . . 

Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in August 2007.

Copyright Environ Press 2007