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Bee Swarm!

Image: A swarm of honeybees rest in a tree

Thursday evening, when I pulled into my driveway, I saw what looked like a laptop computer hanging from the red maple tree in our yard. Clearly, no one had duct taped a computer into our tree, so I knew that something was up. Getting out of the car, I soon confirmed my suspicions: it was a bee swarm.

It is an amazing sight. A couple of thousand bees forming a living beehive on the narrow branch of a juvenile red maple. The weight of the bees is enough to bend the one-and-a-half-inch thick branch. A hundred or so bees are flying around the outside of the interim 'hive' making sure nothing else decides to call the tree home for the night. If you walk closely enough, you can see that the outer layer of bees is constantly in motion, crawling all over each other. Every time one bee lands, a bee from the swarm takes its place in the air. The wriggling mass is always moving, making you think they are about to launch into flight, a kamikaze force two thousand attackers strong. In truth, as long as I do not get too close, they ignore me. I am not worthy of their interest unless I look threatening.

(Writer's note: If you are looking for ways to practice your writing, talk a walk in your yard or down the street until you find something interesting to look at. Now describe it, capturing as much as you can in a short paragraph. Compare what you wrote to what you see. Is it accurate? Does it capture more than just the physicalness of the image? For the next several days, keep working on it. Play with word choice (use the Thesaurus on Word for suggestions.) Use the image as a metaphor. Use it as a setting for a story. How long can you make the description? How short while retaining the essence of it? How would your favorite writer describe it? There is so much work you can do with a single scene.)

At the center of the mass is the queen bee, being protected by the swarm. It is as if they brought the structure of the hive with them, with the queen at the center. This is the second time I've had the pleasure of seeing a bee swarm resting for the night. A few years ago, on Otterbein's campus, we had a swarm that was about four feet long and at least two feet in diameter. We were told it was at least 10,000 bees looking for a new home. In both cases, by morning, the bees were gone.

We have other animals also making temporary homes in our yard, or, in some cases, in our house. We have swallows that return every spring to make their nest in the eve of our house. This year, a new pair have taken a liking to the underside of our deck roof and built a nest there.

Image: a swallows' nest on our porch.

I do not know if they will choose to return to this spot in the future - we use the porch a lot and that disturbs them. The discovered the porch during one of the spring monsoon downpours that lasted for several days. They liked perching on the string of lights that surround the porch. The nest is very interesting: the exterior is some kind of mud like you might see in a wasp nest, while the interior is twigs and grass. There are eggs in the nest now, so one of the swallows is on the nest at all times. Other swallows will come to 'visit', perching on the light strings one at a time for several minutes before leaving. Since I cannot tell them apart, it may be the same swallow every time. When they hunt, the swallows fly above the yard and then swoop down to capture insects as the insects move from plant to plant. The swallows always come out while I'm mowing, swooping around the mower to catch anything that moves as I approach. The swallows circle the mower, flying so close to me I could reach out and touch them. Perhaps that symbiotic approach to feeding is what makes them comfortable building a nest I pass under several times a day.

Love: a story of grief and desire is now available as an audiobook! Available on amazon, and wherever audiobooks are sold.

Win a free Kindle edition of Love: a novel of grief and desire: I work with Reader's Favorite on the Kindle book giveaway. If you go to you can sign up for the monthly giveaway. You can scroll through the list of giveaways (over 500 each month) or sort the list by title or author to find Love: a novel of grief and desire and put your name in for this month's drawing. Good luck!

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