At first we thought the bees were just visiting: lured by the sweet smell of jasmine blossoms on the side porch, they came and went throughout the warm afternoons in a spiraling insect dance, gathering nectar and winging their way back home.
I wondered what lucky beekeeper harvested the flowers' liquid fragrance. And I thought of the days when I served in the Peace Corps in western Ukraine, and I'd go to the open-air market where scarf-headed women stood behind their jars of honey -- pale gold and dark amber -- asking would-be buyers to taste. It's a sensually delicious experience: Hold forth your hand, palm downward, fingers clenched in a loose fist, while the seller drips honey behind your knuckles. Taste.
Bees had also been a part of our breakfast conversation recently, since our son had dreamed that he and I were in a library, where I was showing him a book on insects, and we heard a humming sound, low at first but increasingly louder, more insistent. We looked up and saw a shelf of books had come alive; a shimmering and buzzing wall of bees, moving across the room.
As for the bees visiting our porch, it only took a few days before I found their home -- our ceiling. It was a windy Friday afternoon, and instead of a handful of bees about, the air seemed to be filled with darting, swirling insects. There were thousands. They covered half a wall, and they crawled over one another into a crack where the wall met the ceiling and the seal wasn't tight.
It was, I learned, the season for swarms. Bees go looking for a new home when the old one gets crowded. I come from a big family. I can sympathize. But these guests couldn't stay. And we couldn't fumigate. It's not just concern about killing honey bees. If you spray them, you're left with a bunch of dead bees and their honey-dripping comb. So we called in a beekeeper. He suited up, tore out the ceiling, and vacuumed up the bees.