I really enjoy both the German tabloids’ unflagging dedication to stories about animals and the particular hysteria of their animal coverage. The July 4 Bild cover is a real classic: “Swarm of bees paralyzes tram stop at Rosenthaler Platz”, with the juxtaposition of the unrelated headline below, “Police must now guard embassies”, visually suggesting that the police have been deployed to protect embassies threatened by swarms of bees.
Beneath the subheds “fire department powerless” and “beekeepers in action”, the article about the swarm of bees strains even harder than the headline to sensationalize the bees’ peaceful and ultimately uneventful behavior. Here’s a rather literal translation:
It was 10:49 when the fire department received the emergency call: A giant swarm of bees had inexplicably gathered at an M8 tram stop. As the bees buzzed around passengers, some people batted their arms in fear. Trams opened their doors only briefly to let passengers on and off. And ever more bees kept arriving … in the end they numbered some 15,000! Danger! Even a few stings can prove fatal to people with allergies!
BVG spokeswoman Petra Reetz expressed her surprise. “This has never happened before in the Berlin transit system,” she said. The BVG warned the passengers about the bees before they exited the tram. “That way nobody got stung,” Reetz said. But the bees remained on the tracks. The fire department was powerless. Tram passengers phoned Evelyn Jesse’s nearby beekeeping supply shop, where beekeeper Georg R. happened to be shopping at the moment. Jesse excitedly sent Georg R. to Rosenthaler Platz with a white bucket to gather the bees. At this moment a beekeeping hobbyist happened to walk into the shop, and spontaneously joined the effort.
The two experts gathered up some 80 percent of the bees, including the queen. The rest flew away. By 12:30 the danger had passed for the tram stop. Beekeeper Georg R. took home the bees he’d gathered, including the queen.
He later explained to BILD.de the apparent reason for the bees’ “attack”: “Bees are currently confused due to the extremely changeable weather, and are very eager to swarm (schwarmfreudig). When a population gets too big, half of them break off with a new queen – normally in a hollow tree trunk.” But it seems the only dark place these bees found was the tram tracks.
The good news is that Berlin bees are very peaceable. “I was only stung once while gathering the creatures,” the beekeeper said.
Schwarmfreudig is now my new favorite German word.