Bees’ Knees

The long, tubular metal rack for parking bicycles is wrapped in yellow tape. Like the kind you see on your favorite TV crime drama.

But instead of “Crime Scene” or “Police, Do Not Enter,” all this one announces is “Caution.” It’s a bit cryptic.

With no further explanation than that.

The signage, of course, demands investigation: a rather benign, steel gray bike rack demands caution?

Outwardly, nothing appeared to be amiss with the modern-design structure. Though no bicycles were parked, nothing – aside from the plastic, easy-to-stretch tape – would prevent this.

Closer inspection revealed a possible albeit subtle reason for caution. At the end of one horizontal tube, activity was present.

Yellow jackets. Lots of them. A hive full. And thoughtfully, “camouflagically”, color coordinated with the “Caution” tape.

Yellow jackets are the bees that will sting you repeatedly. Undeterred by the fact that humans are, easily, a million times their size, yellow jacks still go after you.

Viciously. Aggressively. And with little provocation. Their sting, as the expression goes, will get your attention.

I know this from the nest underneath a porch railing that I repeatedly sprayed to death this summer. And the one last year – inside my garage’s wall. Mercenaries were brought in to eliminate the garage intruders.

Industrious, the bike bees built their hive inside the bike rack’s tubes. At the tube’s opening, easily a dozen were busy working.

Or so they appeared to be. Worker bees. Though the precise task was unclear from five feet away.

Wings flapping, antennae twitching, legs propelling, considerable activity was present. One bee crawling over another, nudging the next guy aside, all in harmony and without acrimony despite clear intrusions on personal space.

Then, all of a sudden, everything stopped. No one moved. Not one. For more than five minutes, as I finished my coffee, the workers held perfectly still.

Why? And how is it that while at work I have so much leisure as to make such important observations?

It was like playing “fetch” with a dog. You throw the ball, they run after it and bring it to you. Over and over and over again.

And then . . . they stop and no longer retrieve. Why? Game over. And then the human gets to fetch.

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