Ok. Movies like The Swarm and the threat of KILLER BEES have put bees on the threat to humans as we know them somewhere between killer zombies and rabid and crazed raccoons. The truth is that honeybees are defensive, not aggressive, a subtle but important difference. When away from their hives they sting only when in personal danger. They will defend their honey and colony with their lives (literally, a bee stings once then dies) but even that defense requires some significant prodding.
This defensive-only behavior is most obviously demonstrated when bees swarm...but first a lesson on beekeeping's four-letter-word. Swarming is an instinctive activity whereby an colony of bees, sensing abundant resources (nectar, pollen) decides to replicate itself by creating a queen to hang with the old hive, taking the old queen, and creating a new colony with about 40 percent of the colonies workers. The exiting bees gorge themselves on honey to prepare for the trip and exit the hive en masse in quite a production. From there they usually land a few feet away from the mother hive and form a ball-o-bees while scouts are sent out to explore the landscape for a new home.
So how does this demonstrate defensive-only behavior? They have no hive to protect, they have hugely distended bellies of honey, and are away from home - think Thanksgiving at your in-laws. Do you really care about anything? Nor do they and you could, with enough bravery, put your hand right in that ball-o-bees with impunity. No stings. No kidding.
A swarm, then, while scary in concept is no more dangerous than your 13 year-old daughter in full-drama mode - lots of noise and bluster but in truth not too dangerous.
Back to the swarm in front of my house:
Well, how lucky am I? Ironic isn't it that a swarm would show up right in front of the house of their favorite son? Really, what are the statistical chances?
There was a ball of bees in my neighbor's street tree. My daughter saw it first. I was determined to catch them and hive them.
I took a 5-gallon Home Depot barrel and duct-taped it to the end of a rake (duct tape rocks). That gave me the reach I needed to take a 12-foot ladder and my modest frame to get to the bees. A good knock on the tree branch and we had about 5 lbs of bees.
Check out the photos.