When bees move in, who do you call? A local bee-keeper, of course!
Earlier this week, Daniela, our housekeeper, came running to the house holding her arm. A black stinger remained in the fleshy crease of her elbow. She had opened the bathroom door in the guesthouse to give it a last once-over before our guests arrived the next day — and found the room filled with bees. Thousands and thousands of bees.
She bravely pulled out the stinger, taking a bit of skin with it, and asked for ice to prevent swelling. I feared it was an Italian wive’s-tale remedy, so Googled “bee sting treatment” and learned ice was the best first option. In the next few hours, Daniela’s arm turned pink and puffy, but she insisted it was, “Niente,” nothing.
Larry inspected the guest room and said a colony had moved in between the bathroom window and the outside shutter. With bees swarming the room and without protective gear, it was impossible to open the shutter to let them out. We didn’t want to kill any because of the alarming decline in honey bee population in North America and Europe from 2007-2014. Essential to pollinate flowering plants, honey bees are finally showing signs of repopulation. But every bee still counts.
I started searching for a bee-keeper. On the second morning, a friend called Niccolo, who would come but wanted to wait until after 9PM when the bees would be calm. Our guests arrived mid-afternoon, so we suggested they leave their suitcases outside until the bee-man had worked his magic. Fingers crossed, they could still sleep in the room that night.
Niccolo and his partner arrived soon after dark. Our friends allowed their sons, ages five and eight, stay up past bedtime to watch the action. The boys were mesmerized. While we watched from a safe distance, the bee-keeper donned his gear, started his smoker, entered the guest bathroom, and gently opened the shutter. When he came back outside, the real show began. Layers of waxy honeycomb clung to both the wood and the glass, thick with crawling bees. At night, they were so docile Nicolo didn’t even need his smoker.
Using a large-tubed, gentle vacuum, Nicolo drew the bees into a portable hive. Then he pulled off perfect, ice-white honeycomb dripping with crystal clear nectar and handed them to two wide-eyed boys. A stunning adventure for their very first day in Italy!
This morning, dozens of bees still buzz loudly, agitated and trying to get into the bathroom window. Nicolo said he believes he has the queen, so the remaining drones will eventually fly away. However, he warned to leave the window closed and the shutter open for several days to make sure they don’t resettle. Larry cleaned the remaining dead bees out of the bathroom and our guest room was ready for our friends — complete with a toilet and shower.
The bee-keeper explained to the boys that the colored stuff in the combs was pollen, not bee larvae as they thought. He said we should squeeze the comb to extract the syrup, then let the honey sit for ten days without a lid to mature. We all tasted some of it raw. Who could resist?
There’s always something unexpected happening in the Tuscan countryside. Our bee infestation was more exciting than most, and we could not have orchestrated a better adventure to welcome our guests.