Tonight, I came home and saw a man with a can of DOOM walk around the YMCA building across from our house. I looked up. The holes under their eaves that, for the past two weeks, have been a hive of activity were black and silent. I felt as if that orange can of destruction was in my hand.
I noticed the swarm arrive. I was the only one; most people never look up, or down for that matter. For a week, I observed their comings and goings while the residents of the Y went about their business oblivious to the new kids on Block B. Their buzz buzz buzz became the background track as I sat at my desk contemplating my mess; the symbolic swamp of junk covering the oak, and my life. During one listless hour, I wondered what would happen should my new neighbours outgrow their residence and swarm. Where would they go? It seemed likely they’d stop over in my roof. Bees would then drop from my ceiling through the light fittings, disorientated, pissed off, ready to sting (this happened to my friend Bridget, except it wasn’t her ceiling and they were wasps – the English kind that look a like bees). What if they stung Amber-Jane? She could be allergic. I am. So is her cousin. Bee allergy is a strong genetic possibility. In my mind, the swarm morphed into a monstrous problem that could soon be mine. I fired off a missive to the manager of the Y, urging him to find a beekeeper to smoke them out and cart them off to greener pastures. I imagined their new lives would please them. They’d awaken, slightly hungover, their fuzzy little heads a little, well, fuzzy, but when they saw the lovely new hive box with an apple orchard to the left and wild fynbos to the right, they’d drink in the fresh air and compose new buzzy serenades for their queen.
Yesterday, the buzzing became significantly louder. I went out onto my stoep and saw that the wall under the Block B’s eaves was an undulating black mass. Bees churned around the entrance to the hive, flying in a circular formation as they spiraled into their new home. The rest of the colony had arrived. The others had merely been sent ahead, perhaps to renovate and paint.
I fired off another missive to management, informing them of the new development and enquiring as to their plans. It turns out no beekeeper is willing to smoke out a hive three storeys up. The advise: kill the bees. I could have sent of another email urging him to stay the execution until we could find a beekeeper willing to risk life and limb to save them, but the terrible truth is, I didn’t. My first instinct was to beg for their lives, but instead I decided to protect my child, though she wasn’t under any real threat. Parenting has changed me from an eco-warrior who used to feed honey to bees exhausted by the southeaster* to someone willing to stand silently by while a very important part of our ecosystem is exterminated to keep my genetic material out of harm’s way. Being a parent is a true test of moral fortitude. Most of the time, I fail miserably.
* Before I was a parent, I lived in Oranjezicht. There was a large hive in the oak tree outside my flat. I was never stung, though there were many times I had to remove bees from my home. Attracted by the security light, they would cling to the glass door at the entrance to the block. I lived there for three years and was never stung.