The Accidental Beekeeper, Pt. II

Between my business (which is still in business), my various creative and entrepreneurial pursuits, my art and music, my cooking and food blog — not to mention pandemic, three children at home requiring motivation, homework help and sustenance — I didn’t need another thing.

But the bees thought otherwise.

Olga and me in our bee suits (note: Mexican straw cowboy hat perched stylishly on top of my bee suit)

Considering our chicken coop and pig, terraced gardens that grow nothing but Swiss chard, and my general food nerd tendencies, I sorta fit the profile of someone who would be susceptible to bee keeping. Plus, we use a lot of honey at our house, and I rather like mead. But it sounded like a hassle — there were big boxes, the need to understand the complex societal structure and enigmatic behavior of bees, and goofy space suits to zip into. Oh, and the fact that on the rare occasion that I do get stung by a bee, the sting site swells up like a balloon and itches for three days.

Once, many years ago, I put an owl box in an oak tree off the bedroom deck in hopes of attracting an owl to chase away rodents. A tiny owl moved in for a week, but unable to attract a mate with his fervent hooting, departed. And a bee hive moved in. For several years, we watched the bees come and go, respecting each other’s personal space. Then one windy day, the hive fell. Angry bees swarmed like a buzzy cloud all over the property. Eventually they dispersed and we collected the honeycomb from the ground. It was remarkable to drizzle Greek yogurt with honey that came from bees outside your window.

Flash forward: seven or eight years, and another hive of bees had moved into a cavity in the siding of our house. As luck would have it, we had a new client who happened to be a beekeeper. I sought his advice, and he suggested outfitting a cardboard box with wire and lemongrass oil to lure the bees out of the hive and move them. I set up my box a little too near the hive, making the bees rather angry but fortunately suffering only one sting (resulting in a Popeye right arm), and waited. It sort of worked — at least some of the bees came out, swarming around a tree, and then flooding into the box. But the main colony was still in the wall, and now I had a box full of bees in addition to the hive. Which was not exactly the solution I’d been seeking.

Moving the box bees to their new home

I decided to consult with my friend Olga, who lives a few houses down. Olga is a stylish beekeeper — a fleek Russian who Instagrams curated photos of her beekeeping, her grapefruit-and-rosemary cocktails in Mason jars and her multicolored Martha Stewart-esque chicken eggs arranged in neat circles. The reward of a whiskey sour was enough to get her over with an empty hive box and two beekeeping suits. We social-distance drank and, our courage fortified, climbed into our bee suits.

It was both terrifying and interesting to walk into a cloud of bees. Olga gathered up the box while I sprayed the bees with sugar water to “calm them down.” It seemed to have more the opposite effect, as a swirl of angry buzzing clouded my vision. But I wasn’t getting stung.

“How do we get them into the hive box?” I said as we descended the property with the cardboard box toward a lonely patch of earth down by the chicken coop we had identified as a suitable spot for a new bee home.

“We’ll pour them,” Olga replied.

Pour them??” I gaped. “You can pour bees?”

Sure enough, while I opened the hive box, Olga tilted the cardboard box and the bees came pouring out — not unlike liquid — into their new home.

“That was stressful!” I said as we reclaimed the deck and stepped out of the white jumpsuits. It was time for another cocktail.

Where do things currently stand? Well, I now have bees in three places instead of one. But I also have a borrowed bee suit and patience. And the hope that one day in the bright future, my bees will all have relocated to the hive box at the far corner of the property, and we will be spooning fresh honey over our Greek yogurt and toasting with glasses of mead. Am I a fledgling beekeeper or merely a harassed homeowner? Too early to tell…

Stay tuned…

And if you’d like to read about our original misadventures in beekeeping, check out The Accidental Beekeepers.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda
    Apr 30, 2020 @ 19:18:55

    Yay! Bees! Now you just need a smoker and some hive boxes full of frames and then you’ll have more honey than you know what to do with!

    Reply

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