My grandson Christian called me the other day and informed me that he was a “bee guardian”. He made this announcement with the undiluted enthusiasm and sincerity found only in small children. This is my fault. Ever since they watched an organic, freshly-squeezed, Colorado- based beekeeping video with me a few months ago, all my grandchildren are determined to become “bee guardians”. They plan to defend and protect honeybees from pesticides, antibiotics, unnatural cell size and things that go bump in the night. And this is good. But who is going to defend me from the bees?
It all started in Mississippi when we bought our first acreage. I suggested to my husband that we begin beekeeping. He gave me a quick biology review on the hind end of the honeybee, and that ended that- I thought. Eleven years later and eleven years older, we moved to Ohio, bought another acreage, and got settled. We focused on the horses, dogs, cats, ferrets and kids, and all was fine, until one day, Jon heard about the honeybee situation; how mites and viruses were afflicting our bee buddies, and how experts were encouraging concerned people to invest in back yard hives. Well, we were biologists. Why not?
We attended local beekeeping meetings. We read books. We surfed the net. Finally, Jon lit upon a plan he liked. It called for using top bar hives- hives where the bees make their comb without prefab frames. He ordered plans so that we could build the hives ourselves, and he spent hours decoding them. Then he got sick, and the project was put on hold for a year.
Well, in January, Jon relocated to a place free of bee diseases and pesticides, and where, if there are bees, they aren’t endangered. But, as we still had the plans, and as bees ARE still endangered here, my sons and son-in-law decided to follow up on the beehive construction. Meanwhile, I read more about honeybees, attended more meetings, and ordered equipment and hippie videos on the subject.
Come April 15, my three hives are standing proud and pretty in the back yard, and I drive off to pick up my 3 bee packages and attend an installation demonstration. Nooooo problem. The Ohio State expert shows us newbies exactly what to do. He gently spritzes the package of bees with water, pries out the queen cage and deposits her and her entourage in the hive, and opens the cage to dump the workers and drones in. Shake, shake, shake, most of the bees just pour into the hive. A lot of bees end up flying around trying to figure out where their new home is, but nobody gets stung. And nobody is wearing protective gear. The distinguished demonstrator makes his point: bees in packages have no hive to defend and are not aggressive. That suits me just fine.
So…. I load three bazillion bees in my Toyota (a few are loose!), and I drive home, full of confidence. I am so full of it, that I disdain to don the protective gear I ordered. I spritz my bees; I put the queen in my first hive; I shake, shake, shake the bees from the first package. And then, and THEN…. I run like crazy! Apparently, the bees resented that third shake.
The bees on the back of my head bothered me, but not as much as the one worker exploring the interior of my right nostril. Now I run AND yell.
Ten minutes later, Josh has brushed the bees off the back of my head, has supplied an ice cube for my nose, and I don’t care if the three bazillion bees die of famine, homeless. Twenty minutes later, I put on the bee veil, jacket and gloves, put rubber bands around the bottom of my jeans, and return to the bee battleground. Only now, there is no battleground. The remaining bee packages have had time to cool down, and they pour quietly into their new homes.
All my life, I’ve been impatient, but I think beekeeping-no- bee guardianship- may be the hobby that slows me down! I wonder if that’s what Jon had in mind?