We expanded the farm by about 20,000 members a couple of days ago, figuring there’s no use in growing our own vegetables and raising our own livestock if we can’t sweeten the deal ourselves as well. The idea of helping to save honeybee populations appeals to me almost as much as the idea of helping to germinate my massive garden. Which appeals to me nearly as much as the eventual sweet stuff.
That said, I hemmed over the decision for honeybees no small amount, as I have a long and moribund family history involving allergies and stinging insects, but when I expressed my concerns to my doctor, she prescribed me an epi pen and essentially told me to live a little, and given that her very job is not to kill me, I figured with her blessing I’d be golden. A visit to friends with a hive sealed the deal: beekeepers are enthusiastic about their hobby.
I bought a nuc from a local apiary, which transfers the colony on-site to a stapled and screened-up hive body, a godsend for a beginner. The beekeeping friend owns a pickup truck, far smarter for transport than the passenger seat, and was eager to accompany me. Easy.
Between our spotless, still-creased suits and my gleaming white hive body, there’s no way we stood out as noobs, but the fat that I couldn’t work the zipper attaching my veil to my suit might have given us away. While standing in a field of hundreds of nucleus hives at 18:00, just as the bees were coming home for the day, I channeled the hundreds of Youtube beekeepers and assiduously adopted their zen levels of comfort, figuring if I kept chill, it wouldn’t be a problem. Zippers were for noobs.
Do you know about the rule of writing that says that one mustn’t mention something not being a problem unless it becomes a big problem?
It was our turn at last to load my hive. The apiary manager removed the lid from a nearby nuc colony, and immediately declared “this isn’t the one for you. This colony doesn’t have a queen.”
Apparently my vision of a leaderless society does not gibe well with that of bees. These girls were pissed off, aggressive, shiftless, just flying around stripper-brawl-style looking for someone to punch in the face.
Or, barring that, someone to sting in the back of the neck. And my veil was unzipped. So that person was me.
As it happens, my allergy to stinging insects isn’t expressed nearly as badly by honeybees as it does with others, which is good to learn before bringing the bees home, and while in the company of a nurse. So we moved out of the field, figured out the damned zipper, and returned.
The apiarist removed the lid from another hive. It was okay, but nothing special.
On the third hive, the bees basically greeted us with a glass of bourbon and a sexyfunk Barry White dance. The apiarist transferred the frames gently, but really he could’ve launched them from a canon and they wouldn’t have broken their cool. It had the works: a nice, full pattern of capped brood. Egg cells. Uncapped honey. Bees everywhere assiduously doing their work. And when he got to the fourth frame, there she was.
I thought beekeepers were a little bit nuts when talking about how glorious and wondrous their queen is. Then I saw mine and almost couldn’t suppress the urge to give her a smooch. And my cool was already blown thanks to the veil incident, so I made no attempt to mask my excitement at seeing her.
The rest was uneventful; we brought them home, installed them in their new site, and I’ve kept an eye on them from a distance for the nearly two days since. There’s activity at the hive; I’m not sure how much is normal. But here we are. Now with bees.
There’s a lot of learning ahead of me.