Thursday, July 07, 2011

How Bath survived the killer bees

July is upon us, and with it comes the start of the silly season. As newspaper staff pack their bags and jet away for their customary six-week Caribbean holidays, only skeleton crews are left behind to keep the public informed and entertained.

Bizarre and only partially credible tales pad out pages that in colder months would be filled with hard news.

And by honoured tradition, at least 75 per cent of these stories will be about unusual animal behaviour.

Even in normally level-headed Bath, something has been stirring. Or rather buzzing. Because at the weekend, the city came under attack from a swarm of bees. Or possibly two swarms. Or maybe even three.

The first reports came on Twitter, accompanied by hastily-snatched pictures of the apian horde taking up residence on a bicycle seat.

Then there was a video, clearly shot at some risk to the cinematographer, of the same swarm (or maybe a different one, it’s hard to tell with swarms) getting up close and personal with a floral display in Milsom Street. (Thanks to MusicalTeeth on YouTube for permission to use this video. Have a read of MusicalTeeth's blog.)

It’s all vaguely reminiscent of that rubbishy Michael Caine disaster film The Swarm, in which gigantic venomous killer bees from South America head north for the summer and threaten an all-star cast that includes Richard Widmark, Olivia de Havilland and Henry Fonda. A B movie if ever there was one. (Don’t worry, there’s worse to come.)

In the end, it was down to intrepid reporter Siobhan Of The Chronicle to bring a little sanity to the situation.

The Bath bees weren’t killer bees, they were just ordinary bees looking for a new home. And they’d just stuffed themselves full of honey, so they were fairly placid.

All in all, these bees were on their best bee-haviour. (Told you.)

There’s an old nursery rhyme which gives us a little more insight into the life of the bees and their keepers.

It goes:

“A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.

“A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon. 

“A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.”

Which is a roundabout way of saying that swarms at this time of year are two-a-penny, and nothing to be really surprised about.

But the silly season needs more ammunition if it’s going to last until September, when the real news starts up again.

So bring on the Loch Ness Monster, which is reportedly camping out in the duck pond in Royal Victoria Park.

Bring on Sharktopus, a hybrid shark/octopus who makes Jaws look like a superannuated halibut, and who pops up regularly as the eponymous hero of a film on Syfy.

Or at least, he does when they’re not showing Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, or Mega Python vs Gatoroid, or Mega Piranha, which doesn’t have any natural enemies except the entire human race.

They’re all real films, and they’re all so bad that they’re not good, they’re really, really bad.

But if you do see one or more of these creatures swimming up the Avon, drop us a line. Because in the summer, all news is good news.

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