In the last Bee Chronicles installment, March was still going out like a lion instead of a lamb. Now, a few days into April, it seems spring has finally gotten the upper hand on winter, chasing it away with crocuses and spring peepers and territorial cardinal calls. Last year at this time, I was anticipating my first installation of bees and got as far in the retelling as arriving home in one piece with two packages. The installation went like this:
Most of a successful installation depends on getting the queen safely into the hive. That’s my job. Then it’s up to the workers to accept her and begin living as a colony. Simple, right? On paper, yes. But as I stood there surrounded by so many confused bees, fumbling with unfamiliar packaging and tools in oversized gloves, all the while peering through the netting on my veil, things unraveled quickly. The sugar can in the package was heavier than I thought; it slipped from my clumsy grasp and squished some bees. There were bees in the queen’s cage and I wondered if this was good or if they were eating her alive. There were dead bees. The photos in the book are clear, the bees captured in time, freeze-framed on the page. There is an arrow pointing to the queen in the book; she doesn’t have an arrow in real life. Deep breath. Prying open the package, I lifted the queen’s cage out, trying to keep the rest of the mob inside. I strapped her cage on to a frame and laid the inner cover back over the frames. Giving the bee package a girly thump, I dumped the rest of them into the hole in the middle of the inner cover. This hole, mind you, is only 4 inches by 2 inches, and all 10,000 bees were supposed to dutifully scramble down into the frames and settle in. None of them were supposed to buzz around me, landing on my gloves and veil, or get squished by my bumbling attempts to use the hive tool and properly install their sugar water. On to hive number 2 and a repeat of the above. It was all pretty nerve wracking. And I haven’t even begun to worry about Colony Collapse Disorder or varroa mites yet. Even so, a wise little voice in my head said “go with it” and decided to let the bees do what they do. I had given them a home and food, now I just had to let them settle in.
Almost a year later, April 18th is fast approaching, delivery day. I’m more excited, more confident than last year. I’m sure there will still be a few moments of sweaty palms and probably a few swear words muttered under my breath, but this year I’m counting down the days with more anticipation than trepidation.
Janice Sina, former biology teacher turned veterinary assistant, observes and writes about nature from her East Haddam home. She is a contributing writer to wisewomennow.com and has written for Dog Fancy Magazine and This I Believe (thisibelieve.org).