On Wednesday, I found the daffodils bowing their heads in dejection and saw more than a dusting of snow on my newly planted lettuce, spinach and sugar snap pea seeds. There was a blustery cold wind scattering the first brave maple blossoms, and the magnolia I saw blooming the day before the storm blew in has lost all its blossoms. This is the same storm that swept through the south, resulting in a delay of the shipment of bees from Georgia. You don’t attempt to transfer bees from established hives into 1 x 2 foot screened plywood boxes in the wind and rain, stuff them in a truck, and drive them hundreds of miles to the northeast. They wouldn’t appreciate it. I’m actually surprised it’s only a one-day delay. But a warmer day is predicted for Saturday, even though the temperature has hovered around 30o these mornings. So today is my day to get ready. I would like to be able to report what I hear other beekeepers reporting: workers already raising brood, out foraging, tending to their queen; but my hives succumbed to the frigid temperatures of the Polar Vortex that kept pulsing over the northeast, my last hive finally giving up mid-February. So close! I haven’t made it through an entire cycle in beekeeping yet; I am merely a 3-season beekeeper thus far. Like most things that are worth the effort, you fall down and get up a few times before you get it right. I still call myself a beginning beekeeper; someday I’ll suddenly realize I’ve dropped the beginning prefix, but not just yet.
In anticipation, I looked back at my notes, so meticulously drawn in those first days, describing the sugar-water solution, placement of frames, sketches of the hive. I didn’t trust my instincts back then, referencing books and pestering my mentor with numerous questions. So much of this is second nature to me now. I feel a little more seasoned, like a chef who knows how much a cup is without measuring, and what a “pinch” of this or a “smidgen” of that is.
I also notice a difference in the waiting this year. Last year, I made the drive alone, talked to few people while picking up my packages, installed my packages alone, and went in to work for the rest of the day. I shared my excitement and my trepidation with few people real-time; it was mostly in the retelling that family and friends heard of my adventures. This year, I’m going with 3 other beekeepers, bringing apple-spice muffins for the early-morning drive, and planning to make as much of a day of it as anyone wants to. One of the fringe benefits of beekeeping is enjoying the company of like-minded people. I’ve discovered a whole new world; a world that my bees, social creatures that they are, already know well. From my mentor and local beekeepers to beekeeper associations to awesome companies like The Bee Happy Company, there is an amazing social circle of support, camaraderie, and cooperation out there. Self-described hermit that I am most of the time, I’m looking forward to spending time with other beekeepers almost as much as I’m looking forward to getting my bees. Almost 🙂