Sunday, April 26, 2009

beekeeping chronicles

I have decided, in my infinite wisdom, to keep on here the stories I have written on various usuer forums. These are amusing stories, intended to make one laugh, but, there is more than a vein of truth in all of them, for the most part they are actual events in my life, ( just a couple of embellishments). Here goes:

While I am at it, I might just amuse or terrify you with my recollection of my first experience tonight hiving my bees. Now, I have been reading about this ( consider, "Beekeeping for Dummies"... my first book, go figure), since last summer, and finally found a gal just down the road who is willing to mentor me ( so to speak) in the joys of beekeeping ( another book I read by the way.). So, I go to pick up my packages of bees tonight and get a hypothetical crash course on how to get my bees out of their package. First, if you haven't seen a package of bees, it is a large wooden box, screen covered and filled with about (2 lb pkg) 2000 bees. There is also a small cage inside the package, containing the queen, get to that later... So, I load these pkgs of bees into my SUV ( yup, live bees and me inside an SUV, not a good combination, I am thinking as I am driving quickly but, cautiously down the road, you now how the imagination gets....and I see some of those bees are NOT contained INSIDE the package), and head for home, confident I have done all I can prior to actually doing the job. Now, the first thing required when you are placing your pkg of bees into their hive is a spray bottle of sugar water, you soak them down so they don't fly very well, and can eat all the sugar water they like as they are getting into their new home. So, I have my spray bottle of sugar water all set and everything is ready to go, it is getting on towards dusk so I need to get this moving. First pkg I am getting ready to hive and so I am about to spray the heck out of them with sugar water, ( that buzzing of 2000 bees in your hand is quite intimidating! Not to mention the vibration!). My 11 yr old son is standing off a ways just in case I need someone to help ( like dial 911...). Pick up the brand new spray bottle ( have you seen it yet?) and start pumping like crazy, .... nothing, adjust spray, still nothing take it apart hmmmm, still nothing. I of course, in my excitement DID NOT check the spray bottle to see if it was working prior to leaving the house! So, all I have for soaking my bees is my mason jar of sugar water for feeding them ( perforated top turned upside down), so, I proceed to douse the bees with the mason jar sugar water, which of course douses me, my gloves, my shirt sleeves with sugar water ( think bees at a picnic... LUNCH!!!) Determined to finish this job even if it kills me, I do what I am supposed to... BTW, did I mention HOW you get bees out of a package? Yup, you guessed it, you knock that box on the ground at a corner to loosen the bees from the screen, and then, you shake them out into the hive!!! Yes, you do this! Knowingly!!! Insane? You bet!! Imagine 2000 pissed off bees falling out of a box.... Yup, it was terrifying, but, you know, that first package went so well, even without my water bottle, I didn't get stung, and I got the queen out without any issues. Whew, this is easy, breathe a sigh of relief, my son moves a little closer... So, on to the second pkg, for some reason these bees seemed a little testier than the first pkg. But, I repeated the cycle of dumping a little sugar water on them ( I don't think I used enough this time), took the can out to free the bees, and explosion!!!!! Bout 1000 of those hummers came out with a vengeance! Luckily, they mostly went into the hive, but, somehow, one got into my boot, I could feel it crawling knew I was gonna get stung and there was simply nothing I could do about it (that is a sucky feeling), and zammo~ got nailed, I could still feel it crawling about inside my boot, but, the damage was done, so I left it, I still had about half the bees to get out of my package, and these were the crabby bees... so, what do I do? Yup, just what I am supposed to, I slam the box on the ground again, and then shake those pissed off bees into the hive, did I mention, the queen? well, this queen was still in her cage, and I broke the metal hanger off trying to get the cage out, so now, I have to reach my hand into 1000 pissed off bees to retrieve the queen cage, I am sweaty and more then a bit nervous, my sugar water gloves are quite a treat for those bees, and my entire hand is covered with bees, can't get a hold of the queen cage, too many bees ( those bees completely surround the queen, that is their job...) So, I do the only thing I can, I shake the queen cage down into the hive... now, I have to reach my hand into the hive to retrieve that darn queen. Bees buzzing all around me, my son is holding our Doxie, she thinks the bees are food and is trying to eat them, one of our new Shelties is determined to help eat the pollen patties, he isn't afraid of bees apparently, and I still don't have the package empty yet... My leg is stinging, I am covered with bees and sticky ( thank heavens for the veil!), and I have to get the queen into the hive without killing her! My luck holds, I release the queen close up the hive, and move away breathing a sigh of relief, of course, my son tells me, " Mom, you are covered with bees..." so now what? How do I convince these bees, I am not food, I just taste like it, and get them to stay in their nice brand spanking new hive? I know! Let's take a branch and sweep the bees off! Did I mention that my son is 11? His idea of sweeping with a branch and my idea are apparently 2 different things... First off, the branch I had in mind was smaller than a 10 foot log,... and I was thinking gentle motions... hmmmmm the first motion nearly knocked me off my feet, so after a short discussion regarding how to "gently" remove bees, things went much better. We are steadily moving away from the hives and crossing the pasture now, the mares of course all canter over, ( they can smell sugar a mile away), wondering if there is anything for them to eat... Get up to the house, and low and behold, I STILL have bees on me ( so much for gentle)! So, I am definitely not entering my domain with bees attached, so I consider one of several options, first I could strip outside, ( heck, remember my loose horse episode? No one would be surprised if I were outside sans clothes anyway...). Second, I could try to remove bees myself ( loose fitting sweater not a good idea for bee homing anyway. I went with the second idea... Still have bee in my boot moving around and stinger is still there pumping venom into my leg all this time, so next thing is to remove stinger, I of course can't reach it so my son has to come to my rescue once again ( remember the 10 ft branch?). He carefully removes stinger ( yes, he was very kind and careful, must have remembered we hadn't had supper yet...). Then I research bee sting remedies, ( note to self, before working with bees, have in mind WHICH remedy you know will work). Decide on the toothpaste remedy ( which isn't bad BTW), since my son has to apply said remedy and I didn't think he was too keen on the baking soda paste one... too close to food, and too close to supper. But, after a hot shower and a couple of hours, the stinging was gone and I am ready to enjoy my bees!!

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