Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Bees Knees

I’m not sure where the phrase comes from (yes, I know there is a terrific tool called Google that could instantly find the answer, but dependency on instant gratification rather than giving into wonder is a topic for another day.).
So, about those knees.  

They are completely and utterly functional. Michael and I have watched them for hours this summer carry all sorts of pollen—meaning blue, orange, yellow and white—back to their new home. This past May, we added a two-story condo to our property: a bee hive. Michael had been wanting to do it for years, I was a bit nervous. You know, bees. And, bee stings. 

Turns out, my love of gardening and bees are quite compatible. Plus, doing your part to save the world feels pretty cool, too. Sure, a bit of hyperbole, but if you do any reading on the subjects of hive collapse, pesticides and our food supply you may just end up with a hive in your backyard.

We read books, looked online, watch a great MPT special from approximately the year I was born. Not much has changed with beekeeping though so other than the clothes and hair, the show was as relevant today as then. But, what really got us moving was a colleague of mine who has been keeping bees for 20-plus years.

We had a bee mentor. She shared her passion, her knowledge and great bee stories with us. She took it from somewhat of an alien thought to introducing us to her hives. Her calm nature and her stern warnings were just what I needed (remember, Michael was sold on it already) to commit.

We placed our order for four pounds of Russian bees, and one Italian queen. We heard the Russian bees were a bit more hardy and a bit more aggressive than Italians. Given we were going to take bees born in Georgia to overwinter in Maryland, we thought hardy made sense. Nature didn’t agree, however, we ended up with three pounds of Italian bees in the back of my car. Technically, we had six pounds of bees plus two queens in the back of my car. On a beautiful farm north of Baltimore, we picked up two “packages” of bees–one for us, one for our bee mentor to add to her collection of hives. 

We watched a live demo at the farm of how to move the bees from their travel cage to their new home. The demo guy would never be my mentor, and he had the scars to prove that shortcuts equal stings. Somehow I managed to watch him aggressively shake a three-pound screened in box of bees into a hive without hyperventilating or running away. I wasn’t the only newbie at the demo. I was pleased, however, that I wasn’t the newbie that swatted at the bees. That was the random guy next to me who hit me in the head when a bee landed on my hair. I heard it, oh god did I hear that buzz right next to my ear, but I didn’t want to overreact before I even left the premises. He didn’t share my sense of self-conscious I can handle this vibe, and hit me pretty hard. Tensions were high and bees were all about and a random man hit me in the head. His wife said, “I can’t take him anywhere.”

And that, my friends, is how you make two very nervous about-to-be beekeepers laugh. It then seemed totally manageable to put six pounds of bees in the trunk and head for home.