“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12, 2009

The state apiarist came by last week to inspect my hives and with him was Bill, who is the area’s best known beekeeper and is referred to as the “sage of bees”. Bill has gotten countless people into bees, including myself. He began the local bee association, runs educational programs, helps everyyone with their hives…I' m not sure how he does it all, but he does, and the beekeepers in this area are grateful to him for his help.

Tim, the apiarist, tore into my hives- he took the hive tool and separated the supers, pulled frame after frame checking for mites, afb, and a host of pests that mess with bees. He checked the brood, the workers, looked for drone and queen cells, burr comb, capped honey and assessed the general vigor of the hives. All my hives were in good shape and very strong, which, as a novice, made me proud, and his positive remarks helped me to forget all the bee stings I had gotten during the past year!

I have one hive that goes after me all the time and the plan was to re queen the hive. Tim and Bill ripped into it without the benefit of veils or gloves and found the queen without getting stung once. Meanwhile I had my veil on and was being attacked. Tim hesitated. He changed his mind. He asked if it would be ok not to re-queen, because the hive was very strong and healthy, and one of the better colonies he had seen lately. He pointed out that he wasn’t being stung, nor was Bill. The sight of bees coming through my veil at the time did not seem to be an issue. For some reason, I conceded, and we left the queen, put the hive together, and walked away…bees all over ME and none on them. “Why don’t they like me?” They had no answer, but seemed amused at the show of bees circling me as if I was the center of a bee solar system.

So I let the queen live. Last night I stopped by the hive to give them their daily feed of sugar water. I had already fed my two other hives without any incident as usual. But this hive! Well, I put the jar in the feeder, and Wham! I got stung, then another and another and another. I fast stepped to the barn with bees all over me, stinging me anywhere they could. I got to the barn, turned the water hose on myself and showered them off me. Eleven stings on my fingers, body, and face. Soaking wet… swelling up…in pain….thinking to myself “why didn’t I re queen????”

I could not have even done it then. I can't kill a bee, no matter what. Even in the pain of eleven stings, there is a voice deep in my consciousness repeating “Long live the queen!” It had reminded me that that is why I am a beekeeper in the first place...