All creatures great and small'
Several brave souls gathered on Monday morning for a most unusual event at the Westview Baptist Chapel on Caesar's Mountain.
This otherwise welcoming congregation decided something within the church had to go - a swarm of honeybees that have been in residence in the wall of the sanctuary for an estimated six years.
The folks there have been in search of a solution to this problem for a long time.
"Last year at the state fair, I talked to a man from the Department of Agriculture," West View member Judy Jackson said. "He told me that we should get a cow and then we would have the land of milk and honey."
That was good for a laugh, but it didn't help the problem.
There is an old joke about a church where squirrels had moved into the attic. Exterminators and experts were called in to no avail.ﾠ One Sunday the congregation realized that the squirrels were gone.ﾠ "What happened?" they asked the minister. "I solved the problem," he said.ﾠ "I added them to the church membership and they didn't come back."
But the solution for West View's dilemma actually came from the membership of the First Baptist Church in Weaver, Alabama.ﾠ
Eighteen members from that congregation came to help build a parsonage for the church, and within their numbers was beekeeper Jack Chapman.ﾠ Having scouted out the construction job a while back, he returned this week prepared to remove the bees.
Checking the temperature of the wall in the sanctuary, Chapman quickly located the swarm, as the temperature in "uninhabited" areas was around 60 degrees.ﾠ The temperature at the "inhabited" area was 77 degrees.
"The bees weren't aggressive," Jackson said. "But we were concerned about what would happen if we left them in there."
As it turned out, the bees were not aggressive, even as the paneling and boards were peeled away and an estimated 60 to 80,000 bees were vacuumed into a customized five-gallon bucket.
"I think it's your body chemistry that lets bees know if you are afraid of them," said West View member Mary Lou Smith as the project progressed without incident.
Chapman was assisted in his work by his son, Ronald, ﾠthe "IT guy" for the Anniston Star newspaper in Anniston, Alabama, and teen-ager Nikki Dories.
Dories was the first to taste the honey and declared it to be "really sweet."
Chapman's dad was a beekeeper.
"I used to hate them," Chapman said of bees.ﾠ "But then I fell in love with them."
His work in capturing swarms and the quality of his honey are well-known and appreciated in the area surrounding his home. And Chapman is highly respected by his fellow parishioners.
"He gets calls day and night," said work team member Marilyn Lawson. "He is retired, but he farms and he works non-stop."
Lawson doesn't do bee catching or construction work, but she will be teaching sewing, mending and hemming at the Denmar Birthing Center.
"We love Jack's honey," said Rita Smith, who is a part of the Alabama work team, as well. "He has the best.ﾠ We've bought a lot of honey, but I've never seen him work."
Now she has.
Chapman responds to about 30 calls a year from people in need of his beekeeping/catching services.ﾠ And he doesn't charge for his talent.ﾠ In addition, he takes hives to some of his neighbors, leaving them through the spring and summer to help pollinate their gardens.ﾠ No distance is too great for the man "who fell in love."ﾠ He has hives as far as 240 miles from his home, just to take advantage of the "honey flow."
But the West View bees won't have to travel that far.
Chapman put them in a hive and they will spend a few days in Buckeye "to mess them up," West View member Waynie Jackson said. After that time they will return to Caesar's Mountain to the home of lifelong resident and 70+ year church member Dot Vaughan and her son, Dennis.
The brief move will allow the bees to reset their "internal radar." Though their internal clock remains intact, the polarization and landmarks, which lead them to their nest, will be changed.
If the bees had been transported directly from the church to the Vaughan's home, the worker bees would have found their way back to the little white chapel.
Parsonage construction and nest destruction - a honey of a deal at West View Baptist Chapel.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at