Honey, we lost our house: Swarm of bees stops traffic

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Local beekeeper Mac Metcalfe uses a smoker to coax a swarm of bees away from the front tire of his car on South Concord Avenue in Natchez. Natchez Animal Control officer Randy Myers called Metcalfe to move the bees that were swarming around a couple of neighborhood houses.

NATCHEZ — Thousands of homeless Natchez residents slowed down traffic on South Concord Street Friday morning as they searched for a place where they could rest their feet — or their wings — after a hard day’s work.

Natchez Animal Control Officer Randy Meyers said a local resident came to his office Friday morning to complain that bees were swarming in the area of 48 Concord Ave.

“When I got here, they were all in one spot, bigger than a car tire,” Meyers said.

The swarm of bees collected around the front tire of Metcalfe’s car after he tried to collect them.

Email newsletter signup

Beekeeper Mac Metcalfe said the bees were swarming because they were looking for a new home. They had likely been evicted from a hive in the trees that grew along the bayou that runs behind Concord Avenue’s residences.

“When a new queen hatches out, the bees in a hive will make the old queen move out with a lot of the other bees,” Metcalfe said. “It’s a part of their procreation process.”

The bees had landed on Concord Avenue on top of a plastic bag that Metcalfe said likely had some kind of sugar residue in it.

The key, Metcalfe said, was to attract the bees into a bee box with an existing honeycomb inside he had brought along and baited with syrup. Otherwise, they might try to take up residence in one of the nearby houses.

“I brought this box with the honeycomb already in it because it would be like you finding a house with a sign out front that said ‘for free’ and was already full of furniture,” he said.

The bees seemed to be taking Metcalfe’s bait, and those that weren’t flying in circles around the group were slowly making their way to Metcalfe’s honeycomb, even forming an apparent marching line from the bag on which they had initially landed to the box.

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Two bee houses sit in the shade of a fig tree on South Concord Avenue waiting for a swarm of bees to move in so local beekeeper Mac Metcalfe can safely move them away from houses on the street.

“What’s important is that I get the queen in the box,” Metcalfe said. “If she has gone under that house’s porch, it’s a losing battle. She’ll just draw all of them away from me over time.”

As the day warmed up, the bees started exiting the box because it got too hot, and at one point swarmed under Metcalfe’s car before landing on a nearby fig tree. Such behavior was typical of bees trying to cool down, Metcalfe said, and he moved the box to the shade under the tree.

While the beekeeper tried to collect the bees, Meyers directed traffic around the area, explaining to one after another puzzled residents what was happening. Some laughed. Others just rolled up their windows.

As long as no one went out of their way to injure the bees, Metcalfe said they would be docile, and he worked Friday morning without a beekeeper’s net or protective clothing.

“The media has made such a big deal out of (killer) bees, but these bees aren’t aggressive,” he said.

“They are not being protective of anything because they know they have been kicked out of their home.”

Meyers said this is the second bee call he has received since April.

Metcalfe said he knows of at least 20 groups of bees living in the downtown Natchez area.

Local beekeeper Mac Metcalfe places a bee house under his car in hopes of coaxing the swarm in.