Yesterday my sister Beth and I became parents. Or landlords (wait, she’s already my
landlord…). Or something. Actually, I’m not quite sure what we became… oh, wait, yeah, I do know: Apiarists!
I don’t know when the longing started to grow, but over the past several years as our garden didn’t (grow so well, that is), the desire for a hive of our own blossomed (a lot better than the garden did, actually). And yesterday, we brought home our babies. All six thousand or so of them, in a little three pound box. And with the help of our friendly neighborhood honey-guy, we (sort of) settled them in their bright shiny new home. Okay, their rough, but clean, wooden box. Okay, their super. That’s what it’s called, yo, a super. Don’t ask me why.
Did you know that’s how you buy bees – by the pound? I didn’t. And did you know that a pound of bees is roughly the same as 2 thousand bees? I didn’t! But I know it now, and I already know a lot more things, too, that I didn’t know at 5:24 yesterday morning when I rolled out of bed (on a Saturday, no less!). Expect to hear a lot more about bees as the days roll by, because I have a suspicion this is a topic that’s going to be exciting to me for quite a while.
But back to yesterday. We drove over an hour into beautiful country, rough and old-fashioned feeling, like something back home. The navigator for this trip had misunderstood the directions, and so we allowed a generous two hours for what turned out to be a just-over-an-hour drive, arriving at our destination 45 minutes early, long before anybody else. We had plenty of time to explore. (Too much coffee, a long drive, no bathroom … thank God I’m a country girl!)
Okay, actually this part of the story is anticlimactic. A few people eventually showed up, a tall older gentleman gave a brief tutorial on how to get the bees out of the box and into the super once we got them home, we loaded our new little buddies into the car, and home we went. I was so excited about getting our own hive of bees that I expected bells and whistles, or at least fireworks, but nope. Just a big mostly empty warehouse and a long row of tables lined with three- and four-pound boxes of bees. The bees were fairly quiet, clumped tightly together in their boxes, humming softly. The people were low-key and also fairly quiet. The rusting trucks, the ramshackle buildings, the sun-drenched fields: quiet, quiet, quiet.
Carrying the box around didn’t seem to bother them at all. They were quiet all the way home. They didn’t make any loud noises, they didn’t fuss at all. Deep in the middle of their warm, furry mass was the queen, who was introduced into this bunch of bees just the day before. She is set apart in a little cage that keeps her safe until they have all become used to one each other, a process that can take a few days. Her cage is stoppered with a sugar plug. She’ll eat away at her side of the plug, and the bees will eat away at their side, and by the time the stopper is gone and the queen can leave the cage, the bees will have become her bees, living only to serve and protect her, and all will be well in the hive.
They look so happy, so content, don’t they? Like when we open the box, they’ll just line up and walk out and into their new hive, no muss, no fuss, and then we can move the queen in her little plastic palace and everyone can go about their business, quiet and peaceful like it’s been all morning, right?
Oh, yeah, one other thing I learned yesterday. I mean, I knew it, of course, duh, but, well, maybe I got lulled into a false sense of security. ‘Cause the thing is, and don’t ever let anyone tell you different, bees are wild animals. Really: do not let anyone tell you different.
But more on that later. Right now, I need another cup of coffee.