Anyone remember how there weren’t any more bees?
Last month, shortly after feeling scolded by an op-ed saying that, I was shocked to discover that my yard was full of bees, and in other posts I explored whether the great American bee extinction meme might be exaggerated.
I realize, of course, that anecdotal stories about the existence or non-existence of bees are not proof of any overall pattern, but here’s my bias: I like the bees. I hope the bees thrive, whether in my yard or anyone else’s. Whether the bees manage to turn up on farms, on the beaches, or in the cities, I’m rooting for them.
More bees! Yaay!
Naturally I found myself just loving today’s Inquirer piece about a bee problem in center city Philadelphia:

Center City remains a very desirable place. Just ask the bees who have been swarming downtown lately.
Over the last couple of days, thousands of Italian honeybees have come to Center City, most likely looking for a place to establish their hives. In the end, it wasn’t a good fit.

Italian? Sorry to interject there, but considering the fact that all bees in the United States began as immigrants, is it really necessary to dwell on their particular ethnicity?
I was just kidding of course. Normally I take multiculturalism as seriously as I can, so I really should stick to the facts. The Wikipedia entry on Italian bees notes that they’ve been here since 1859, but has an ominous warning under the heading of “Character”:

Character
It has a reputation for gentleness, but hybrids with the darker races can be especially vicious.

I’d normally be tempted to ask just who is being serious here, but that’s beyond my overloaded mental capacity.
I shouldn’t get so easily distracted by extraneous issues. Back to today’s great news:

It all started Tuesday morning, when thousands of bees appeared on a tree outside Liberty Place at 17th and Chestnut Streets.
That’s when Nancy Schnarr of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association was called in. She sawed off the tree limb and drove off with the bees in tow.
Yesterday, another swarm showed up about noon on a planter outside the Borders bookstore at Broad and Chestnut Streets.
But Schnarr was already booked, so she called in a pinch-hitter, her 70-year-old mother, Dawn Potts. Her mother is not a beekeeper, so she had to follow instructions given by cell phone.
Schnarr, 40, said she had no idea where the bees came from, but that mostly likely the swarms happened when someone failed to properly attend to their hives.
Hives can have only one queen. If another queen is going to be born, the old queen will take part of the hive with her and look for someplace else to live. That’s a swarm.
Beekeepers keep this from happening, Schnarr explained, by regularly removing compartments in the hive where queen eggs would be laid. Think of it as a kind of bee regal birth control.

From imminent bee extinction to birth control for bees in barely over a month, in the same newspaper?
By any standard, that’s progress.
Far be it from me to ask whether there a lesson in life to be learned from Philadelphia’s Italian bees, as I’m far from being a moralist, and I’m just not into anthropmorphic morality. Besides, Aesop did it better.
I’m just glad to read about Philadelphia’s bee problem (and I’m even gladder that no one so far is blaming global warming).