A few years ago we shared a house with a colony of bees. We weren’t aware of their presence when we moved in. We knew the house from visiting the previous tenants, who had never mentioned the bees. Perhaps they moved in during the few months the house was unoccupied.
They made us nervous at first. The clothesline began at the corner of the house directly above the entry to their abode. They flew back and forth by us whenever we were outside, but they were going about their business and didn’t mind us going about ours. My wife planted hollyhocks on that side of the house, the bees appreciated them and never bothered her as she weeded and watered them.
The colony seemed to be prosperous, swarms left twice a year in search of more room for their increased population. The first couple of times we phoned around trying to find a beekeeper who could collect it for his own use. I watched one swarm, high up on a branch of a poplar tree, while waiting for a beekeeper to arrive. The messengers must have come back with a report of a suitable new location and the whole swarm left, heading south, before the beekeeper arrived.
When we finally did locate a helpful beekeeper, he was only a few miles away and he did capture several swarms. One windy day, while I was working at home alone, I gradually became aware of a roar that was not the wind. On a hunch, I walked over to the wall and found the sound was coming from within the wall. I could hear the same sound from that wall when I went outside. I went back in and got back to work.
After a while I became aware that the wall was now silent. I went outside to look for the swarm, wandering about the yard, looking high up in the trees and seeing nothing out of the ordinary. I started walking back to the house and paused to look at a couple of bees that passed just in front of my nose. Then I saw it, close enough that I could have reached out and touched it, a large throbbing ball of bees on a branch of our little plum tree. Our beekeeper friend captured that swarm.
We were never stung by the bees. There were times when we thought longingly about the honey that must be in the wall, but deemed it prudent to leave it there.
Our beekeeper friend derived many spiritual lessons from a honeybee colony. I wish we had talked more and that I remembered more. Like him, I don’t have enough faith in the creative power of time to believe that the intelligence demonstrated in the finely tuned social functioning of the honeybees could be a product of random chance. The fact that an individual honeybee cannot survive independently is a reminder that it was never intended for a Christian to function independently of a body of believers.
I am happy to share our yard with a variety of God’s creatures and feel each one has a purpose and a lesson to teach us. I’m not so sure though about mosquitoes and ticks. Most likely they are part of the curse, at least in their present mode of life. And the skunk who lives under our trailer has to go!