As I gingerly slid the knife into the slightly wobbly edge of the box filled with thousands and thousands of thrumming bees I thought about how good my husband is at managing physical objects and how I am not. The man I’m speaking of (Jason) was just standing there watching me, wearing a tiny bee helmet and that’s it (I mean he had clothes on—just not a bee suit!) I on the other hand was decked in the full bee regalia. We only had one suit.
He was exuding great patience, but I could also feel his thoughts of my ineptitude playing in on the scene. And truthfully, I understood. When it came to this part— how hard it was to get the box open and how wobbly the thing was—I wasn’t the best person for the job. I thought I was just going to walk in there, take off the lid and put another bee box on top to make room for more honey. Neither of us realized that of course the bees would have glued the thing shut. Resourceful buggers.
On summer solstice we got two hives of bees. We’ve been talking about having bees for a long time and since I had wanted bees long before I even started dating my husband I was determined to be a part of it, despite his skill in managing physical things.
When he said, “You can hold the light…. Or you can wear the suit and I’ll hold the light.”
I said without hesitation, “I’ll wear the suit.”
Years ago I had witnessed a hive swarming and fell in love with the magic of bees. That summer I had immersed myself in bee research. I googled, printed, read and wrote. I found out all of these fascinating things about bees—like did you know the males bees’, (called drones), only purpose in life is to mate with a queen bee and once done (in flight) he plummets to his death, his penis still sticking in her? Weird huh!?
Now we had thousands of these complex, intelligent, fascinating, and hard working honey makers right in our own yard, and I wanted this to be my project too.
Standing there in the twilight I was also acknowledging to myself that my husband would have been better suited to this particular duty.
But I also knew, you only get good at a thing by practicing. So I wasn’t about to give the job over without a good try.
That is, until something, not so pretty happened.
The whole hive, I mean four feet of stacked hive boxes filled with honey and thousands of bees, fell over. And it took the hive next to it down as it went.
“Remain calm,” was my first thought.
I looked back at my husband whose face was registering a series of shock, dismay, and outrage emotions.
Then I said, “The first thing we need to do is get out of here, then we can talk about it.”
I could see he was reluctant to leave the scene in disarray, but wearing only his tiny helmet, he could clearly see my logic.
“Let’s go in the house,” I said.
The next thing I had the bee suit off and I was standing in the kitchen giggling. You know that giggling that comes when something has gone horribly wrong and laughing is about the only thing you can do in the face of it. That’s what I was doing.
My husband was not.
He looked at me snickering and said, “I feel bad for them. Do you get it? It would be like a bear coming in our house and ransacking the whole…”
I cut him off, “Honey, I get it. I totally F%^& up. I am sorry. There is just nothing I can do about it now. Laughing is all I have left here.”
“I’m just mad at myself for letting you do it,” he said. “I knew it would be better if I did it. I couldn’t say no, you were just so into it.”
I tried a few more—but-there-is-nothing-we-can-do-about-it-now-except-figure-out-how-to-fix-it sentences to lighten him up.
Then he said something that shut me up. “I feel this. You’ve got to allow me to feel this. You know how you always want space to feel things before you move on?”
I got it. He was right. He had every right to feel upset by this even while I could not.
“Okay. I’ll call Reed.” That’s the friend of ours who had given us the bees and who had more experience with bees than our 12 hours. “And we’ll figure out what to do next.”
That night, my husband tried to fix my mistake—but he could not lift the boxes himself. They were full with honey and bees. When he came in from trying he acknowledged he had been upset because he knew (while I did not) that the boxes were wobbly. But after having a hand at repairing the damage (even if unsuccessfully) he felt decidedly better. He attributed the fiasco to the shoddy frame that we had inherited. One way or another, the deed was done.
We planned to borrow another bee suit and get help the next day. And so it went.
The following evening before dark, our good friend and neighbor Ian wheeled his bee suit and supplies over to our yard in his wheelbarrow while I was putting the kids to bed. Ian and Jason went out there, fixed the faulty boxes, righted our bees, and reported that the hives still looked very much alive and happy. I joined them out there when the last of the wee eyelids in the house were shut.
That night we got our first lesson in bees, honey, and hives.
And so our adventure in beekeeping began.
P.S. Stay tuned for a post on the success of our first honey spinning!
P.P.S. Also, I was called on to help capture a swarm just a day or so after this event described in this post. The photos of me in the bee suit are from that experience.