We recently rearranged our bedroom so that our bed is in front of a window. This morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was look out the window to see our two beehives, sitting in a spot that has been empty since last November when the bees in our one remaining hive died. When they died, we started planning right away for more bees. Last year was our first year keeping bees and it was instant love for Jonny and me. Next spring, we said, we’d try four hives, rather than two. But then, we found a house we loved and hoped to buy. We didn’t want to move bees, so we agreed, no bees this year. On the day it became clear that we wouldn’t be moving just yet, I think we both had the same thought: bees. So we called back, hoping there would still be a couple of packages available, and there were.
Yesterday was the latest possible day for our bees to arrive and we couldn’t think of anything else. We’d been living for Wednesday, the day they would surely arrive. We called the post office for the second day in a row and were told, “No bees.” Our hearts sank. Jonny went back out to work and I set about working in the kitchen and getting kids working on lessons. There must have been some mistake. Our bees must not have shipped after all. But then, just as we’d given up hope, the phone rang. I raced for it like a teenager, saw USPS on the caller i.d and answered with the word, “Bees?” instead of “Hello.” Yes, our bees were there. I tore out of the house and across the yard to Jonny’s office and like an excited child I practically shouted, “It’s time! Our bees are at the post office! We have to go get them! Now! Hurry!” I ran back inside and worked quickly to make the kids presentable (not easy, as they’d been eating frozen blueberries) and we soon headed out to pick up 20,000 or so of our favorite insects.
We waited for the end of the day to install our packages. Last year the installation of our bees was a bit of a disaster. We were nervous and it started raining just as we got started. If you haven’t read Jonny’s hilarious account of that adventure, you should. This year everything went smoothly. We agreed that we would take turns. Jonny would install the first, and I, the second. We’re kind of silly because I stood there in my jeans and tank top right next to Jonny pouring that first box of bees into the hive, not the least bit concerned myself with protective clothing. Packaged bees aren’t typically aggressive (though we both managed to get stung during last year’s install) and we’d been told that these bees with their mixed genetics are very gentle, and they are, there were no stings. But for the few minutes that we poured our bees into the hives, we both donned our jackets and gloves for extra confidence.
After pouring my package into it’s hive, the second of the two, we were a little worried because it seemed that most of them ended up flying in the air high above the hives. There was literally a cloud of bees around us. We watched the remaining bees for signs that they were calling the others to the hive, but saw none. Oh no! But then after about ten minutes, they all came down almost at once, landing on the top of the hive and pouring in. I went back with my camera to get a photo. The bees were landing on me, on my camera, and the buzzing was so loud. I was just in my tank top and I could feel them on my neck and arms and head, but there was nothing to worry about. Our bees were just trying to get home. I made a movie and it is embedded below. Youtube kind of ruins the quality, but you will get the idea.
Jonny asked me if our marriage would get better now and with a frown I looked at him and said, “What do you mean? Is our marriage bad?” He replied, “No, but last year you said that getting bees was the best thing we ever did for our marriage.” Oh yeah, I did say that. And I think it’s true, that finding something that we both love and can share and do together has been really good. I can see Jonny now, outside my window walking down to check on our “Honeys,” on their first morning with us.
So, last year we “got bees” and then the bees all died, but we survived: the deaths, the winter, and now it’s spring and we have bees again. Everything seems wonderful right now.
p.s. The books pictured in this post are The Life and Times of the Honeybee which is a wonderfully illustrated book all about honeybees (not just for kids!), and A Hive of Busy Bees which isn’t actually really about bees, but life lessons taught to two children through stories on a summer long visit to their grandparents house. This is our current bedtime reading and everyone loves it from Beatrix all the way up to Seth. I highly recommend it.