By Ricky Pack
It’s a beautiful August morning. The sun is out and the temperature is around 75 degrees. All of the raccoons are tucked in their snuggly warm tree top lairs. I could hear the sound of a late feeding possum rustling under the oaks, looking for some acorns.
The bees are just starting to move. Some of the workers have started their daily orientation flights. The neighbor’s hounds are baying as if they had treed a squirrel. I prayed that it isn’t my sworn foe, the bear. I kicked my flip-flops off (if it is the bear, just to make odds even).
The bees had recently been moved and are sitting back on my property. Considering the size of the bee in comparison to the size of a human, we moved the bees the distance equal to a human being driving across 2 states. All the bees are female, traveling with royalty, who brought her boy toys, the drones.
Everybody knows how cranky a female gets when she is cooped up riding for any real length of time, bees are no different. I obliged them enough rest time that they should have shaken off the “moving blues.” I pulled off the screen blocking the entrances. The bees flew out with revenge on their little black hearts. I skedaddled like my butt was on fire and my head was a catching.
Thinking that the moon and the stars were all aligned up for some enjoyable, relaxing beekeeping, I started to prep my tools of the trade. I had to put a medicated powder on the frames, put on a pollen patty, and then feed them sugar syrup.
The first two hives were pleasant and relaxing to be around. A puff of smoke here, a puff there and I had the little two-toned angels eating out of my hand. If only I could have been that smooth when I was single. What am I saying? I was that smooth.
The pollen patties went down easily, the medication was sprinkled gingerly, and the hive top feeder was placed and filled without spilling a drop. Yes, life was good. I slid the top back on the hive, tied it down, and started getting ready for the other two.
I had to put off working the other, older hives until tomorrow.
Tomorrow came quickly. I laid in bed in anticipation of another day of working with the bees. I got up, looked outside and wondered what the day had in store for me. The sky was dark with clouds, the air had a smell of rain, and I could swear I heard a couple of coons, and possums, laughing it up behind the wood shop. There was a healthy amount of fear in me about facing 80,000 hungry females, each with a very sharp stinger.
Bees don’t like rain. Now a wise man would’ve figured out that only evil could come from working with those females, all of which had bad attitudes and sharp instruments in their back pocket; a smart man would’ve just jumped back into bed. I, being neither of those two, decided to work them any old way.
On the first hive I puffed plenty of smoke. I think that just hopped the girls up on a cotton high. I slowly opened the hive and the pain began. I knew right then that those little ladies wanted to hurt me like so many women in my past. I thought I had the upper hand until they got smart and hit me with a rear assault.
That wasn’t the only place they stung me. They stung me on the back, the shoulders, and a really tender spot right behind my ear. A couple of them snuck under the wire! I found out that veils are not really bee-proof.
The attack continued as I received stings on my finger tips, wrists and arms. I started seeing stars and I knew I was outnumbered. My thoughts turned to running to escape. My grandfather’s image came to mind. I could see him laughing, seeing me getting pummeled by little old bees.
I threw the patty on, medication, put on the feeder, filled it, and put the top back on. I retreated…. stepped back a few feet, knowing I had the meanest hive left to work.
Number three must have sent couriers out with their battle plan, because number four was ready and waiting for me. I completed the task of feeding and medicating in short order. (I ain’t scared!).
Number four has a new queen. She was happier. After all she just mated with 12 or 14 drones, all of which plunged to their deaths without genitals. (Just an observation: Some females can be so cold.) After she starts laying brood again, the hive will be more pleasant.
Swelling takes some time to go away and my beekeeper’s ego needs re-inflated.
I took up hunting smart-aleck raccoons, and their cousins the possums.
(Pack may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the editor regarding his column may be e-mailed to email@example.com.)