Yesterday was a crazy day for me. We just got back from an art show in the D.C. area, having driven most of the day Monday to get back home. Tuesday found me with a full dance card from 7:30am until the end of the day (beyond actually).
We were notified that our bees would be ready for pick up on Tuesday so we had to plan accordingly. I had a business meeting in the morning then returned home to pick up Christine. We then drove out to Queen Right Colonies to pick up our package of bees.
As we drove up we could see a ton of cars. Bee delivery day is a big deal, with customers filing through from 8am to 8pm all day, picking up their new winged friends. Luckily we found a parking spot in the lot and didn’t have to hoof it from the road. As I pulled in I chuckled to myself upon seeing the ambulance on standby next to the barn. Great, at least they have the foresight to have paramedics on hand.
Closing the car door we began the walk to the retail store and as we turned a corner we could see hives lined up along the driveway. And the air above was just thick with bees. And I started to get really nervous. It was a nervousness that I really hadn’t felt before in all my years. It was downright primitive. But with head held high, and steady, I walked through the cloud of flying bees, past a large cattle pail full of water and into the store. Inside the open door the store had an unnerving amount of bees scanning the windows and buzzing around as well, along with a fair number of customers and employees.
We needed a bee outfit for Christine so we picked that out first, trying on and subsequently deciding upon and extra small jumpsuit that fit well. Next we stopped by the counter, paid for the suit and then got our receipt for one package of Italian bees. We wanted our queen marked (this makes it easier to find her in the hive down the road) so we hopped in line with several other customers waiting for their bee packages. Many of our fellow bee keepers were first timers too. The apprehension on everyone’s faces was readily apparent. But we all smiled and shuffled forward one at a time, like school kids outside the principal’s office.
Standing at a large table in the garage area the staff handed out packages. They wore no protective clothing. I don’t know if or how many times they got stung but they were cool calm and collected. There was one guy who soothed his hands in that big vat of water; I could see visible swelling on them from stings.
Stepping up Christine received her package of bees and held it bare handed. The crazy part is that while all our bees are inside the package, there are a ton of bees on the outside of the wooden box. This means they’re all going to hitch a ride in the RAV4 unless we figure something out. They said just ask the guys to brush them off but everyone is busy and I’m not sure how that’s going to work. We decide to go in and buy our own brush.
Christine hands me the package and walks back to the store. I’m freaking out on the inside. All I can think is that bees can smell fear. I smile as others walk by with their bees, wearing a similarly false grin of success on their faces when inside they are freaking out too. Soon bees are crawling on my arms to get a better position on the wooden box. They are all drawn to our queen, tucked deep inside the box.
After what seems like a year my wife emerges with a yellow brush. We walked back down the drive to the car. I set the bee box on the hood. Taking the brush I gently brushed off the bees, turning the air around me into a wild buzzing cloud of craziness. I take the box and set it down in the back and close the door. Some of the extra bees are with us. As we exit the parking lot we open the sunroof to let one out. Four others pace up and down the back window. It takes the hour drive home for my nerves to settle. As we pull in the drive and turn off the car I can hear them back there. Upon opening the tailgate it’s amazing the buzz that fills the air. If the universe or our world had a fundamental sound, it would be the hum of a bee hive. Six thousand pairs of wings vibrating at the same time. Fear no longer resonates through my body, suddenly these are “our” bees, and we their protectors…nurturers.
Check back tomorrow to hear about how we moved them out of their box and into their hive.