When the Bees Moved In

Barney's Backyard Buddies Were a Bit of Bother

<b>BUGGED:</b> Karina Van Bogelen (left) and Amy Swanson suit up for bee action.
Barney Brantingham

NEW NEIGHBORS: I keep hearing about so-called “die-offs” among some honeybee colonies, but just the reverse happened in my backyard. The busy little insects and I have happily coexisted for years as they hovered around my lavender bushes. Pesticides are partly blamed for the troubling decline, but I don’t use the stuff. After all, we badly need the little folks because they pollinate our food crops.

I just brush past the bee-busy bushes with nary a sting. But recently we noticed a small cloud of bees buzzing around a tree in a corner of the backyard. A colony had settled in. How long they’d been there we didn’t know. But they seemed to like it.

Barney Brantingham

When we moved in, we’d noticed a gaping hole in the base of the tree. At some point, the gardener nailed a board over the hole to keep the rain out. That left a gap, and that’s where the bees were happily buzzing in and out. They also enjoyed the nearby water feature, sharing it with all the birds that come to feed.

Yep, the birds and the bees, all happy in that quiet, shady corner where the cats sleep. But what to do about this quantity of new neighbors? As luck would have it, two families on the block keep bees, along with chickens. And they generously bring over a fresh egg or two and a jar of honey now and then.

Karina Van Bogelen, from across the street, and Amy Swanson, from down the block, came over to inspect. No problem, they said. They returned wearing full beekeeper outfits, including big hats.

Van Bogelen held a large cardboard box with holes in it. She fearlessly reached down into the hole and scooped up handfuls of honeycomb and bees and filled up the box. The main thing, of course, was to capture that precious queen. They’d all follow her everywhere, apparently.

I did some reading about honeybees and their queens. The worker bees do all the work, flying around hunting pollen. The male drones are only good for one thing, it seems: sex. Then they commit sexual suicide. They have sex with the queen pretty much the same way humans do. Not to be too graphic, they insert their penis and deposit semen. Then they drop dead. Literally. Job done. Nature has rules.

In cold weather areas, worker bees kick the remaining drones out of the colony. Can’t have those lazy bums hanging around all winter eating all the precious honey the colony needs to survive. In any case, the life expectancy of drones is about 90 days.

When my neighbors left with the bees, the colony ended up with Swanson, wife of Pastor Dale, whose ministry is just around the corner at the New Life Church.

Busy bees still hover around our bushes, seeming not to resent our eviction of their so-useful fellow creatures. Word of caution in case of bee problems: Leave it to the experts. Info at the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association (sbba.org).

WAVE OF MOVIES: Films from Spain and Latin America will be screened at the Riviera Theatre today through Sunday, May 3, thanks to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Ten movies will be shown starting at 11 a.m. daily. Info at sbiff.org.

CRAZY FOR GERSHWIN! I’ll never get enough of Ira and George Gershwin’s tunes. The musical Crazy for You takes the stage at San Marcos High School tonight (April 30), May 1-2, and May 7-9 at 7 p.m. Riley Berris directs.

CRAZY FOR THE BEATLES! The tribute band In My Life put on a boisterous show at the Lobero Sunday night, thrilling a full house. At times I had to catch myself: Wait, this wasn’t really the mop-top bunch. Remember the chamber music touch to “Eleanor Rigby”? Four area high school students filled in beautifully on that piece Sunday: violinists Miguel Robles and Madisen Webb, Kate Bromund on viola, and cellist Sara McGuire. They got a big hand.

The audience included Madelyn Palley, who said Santa Barbara News-Press owner T.M. Storke assigned her to cover the Beatles when they played Dodger Stadium in 1966. She and Scott McCann will be hosting a City College class on the Fab Four at the Schott Center May 6, 13, and 20, including speakers she says worked with the Beatles. ($56 fee. More at sbcc.augusoft.net.)


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