Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Bee Story, Part 1 (I Swear This is True)

  It had all started out so innocently.  I had been given an empty hive by a friend as a gift, and he had told me about the wonders of beekeeping.  It sounded like an absolute blast and I thought since I have survivalist leanings anyway, we would be able to make our own honey, and after all, how cool is that?
  So I got on ye old internet and found a place about two hours up the road that would sell me some bees to put in my hive. I ordered 8 lbs of bees and a queen and finally the magical day came in which I was going to pick up my bees and become a beekeeper!  I took off work early that day so that I could make the drive and make it back before dark. The plan was for me to make the trip by myself, but my wife , realizing that  her  beloved husband has no  sense of direction and often gets lost in the drive thru, volunteered to  ride with me and  ‘naviguess’.
  Now for  my wife to come along, my 4 kids have to come along, so the  six of us loaded up in the SUV and headed out  on our glorious beekeeping adventure.  I expected some sort of farm or something but the place where I was to pick up the bees resembled a 1980’s office building constructed in the center of a field. I told the wife and kids to stay put and I would go get the lay of the land. I strolled through the front door and told the nice lady behind the desk that Mr. Alford was here to pick up his bees. She led me through the back door where there was quite the production going on. There were thousands of bee boxes, and millions of loose bees zipping around while a group of men loaded bee boxes onto trucks. The nice lady gestured to a nearby bee box and said “Those are yours.”
  Allow me to interrupt my own narrative here. I am, under normal conditions, a voracious researcher, but for some reason, other than my head filling with my imagined success in this endeavor, I had done almost no research.   In fact, my wife’s calm demeanor was really resting upon the fact that I am a voracious researcher and it was inconceivable that I would consider getting into a enclosed space with several pounds of stinging insects without having a fairly good idea of what was involved in it.  All I can say is that I was having an off day.
 What the nice lady directed me towards were two wooden and wire boxes fastened together filled to the brim on the inside with bees and with hundreds of bees clinging to the outside.  Nobody else seemed alarmed by this, and I certainly didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing ( though I didn’t) so I simply said “Where do I sign?”.

  The sight that greeted my   ever-patient bride through the windshield was of me strolling around the side of the building toting this bee box with hundreds of bees not only on the outside, but swarming around me.  I was trying my best to look nonchalant, as if this was a regular activity for me. She rolled own the window just a bit and said “What is that?”
  “These are the bees. I’m going to put them in the back seat.”
  “No, youre not.”
“Sweetheart, we came up her to get bees. These are bees. The only way for them to get home is to go in the backseat.”
“We came here to get bees in some sort of container. Those are not.  You won’t be putting all those loose bees in my car with my babies. Sorry. Aint happening.” She rolled up the window.
I stood there with my box of bees and pondered my next move. I set the box of bees down on the ground and motioned to my wife. Together we went into the building.  The staff there was super nice as my wife relayed her concerns. The lady behind the desk explained that the bees were driven by scent, and they clustered to the outside of the box because they could smell the queen in there. She told us “They are not interested in you and your kids at all”.  But Dianne couldn’t get past the idea of bees loose in her car, so an older gentleman who was sort of standing off to the side had an idea.
  We walked outside as my wife got back in the car. He picked up my box of bees and a long brush and beckoned me to follow him. The plan, he explained was that he would  take the brush and sweep off the bees from the outside of the box, then hand the box to me and I was to  run and get  the box inside my vehicle. Dear reader, at the time this sounded like absolute brilliance.  Looking back, well…not so much. The gentleman got to brushing and the bees would get evicted, fly up and land right back on the box. He brushed faster and suddenly handed me a mostly bee free box and said “Go!”
  I took off running swinging an eight pound box full of stinging insects with a cloud of bees following me.  I got to our vehicle, opened the door, threw the box in and closed the door. “There!” I found myself talking to the cloud of bees. “Take that!”
  I  got into the car awash in my own glory about what an elegant solution this turned out to be.  My bride however noticed the incompleteness of my victory in that a handful of bees still were on the outside of the box. “No problem, dear.” I told her. “Once we get out on the road we’ll roll all the windows down and drive as fast as we can. It’ll suck the bees right out. " Surprisingly, amazingly, it worked, and so were on our way back to our little corner of Georgia with 8 pounds of bees.
 Dianne , when we were almost home, looked back at the box and asked “ So how do you get them out of the box?”
  Ummm….well, how hard could it be?”
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