Does anyone remember that song from preschool or kindergarten? The one where a delightfully oblivious child finds a bumble bee and, unable to tear herself from its fluffy cuteness, proceeds to try taking it home to show her mother? If you don't I'll sum it up for you. There's really nothing much more to the song other than the child being stung and undergoing a hideous transformation from harmless, unknowing toddler to vengeful overlord by smashing the insect and finally presenting her mommy with its mangled carcass. It's a learning song, really. It teaches that: 1. Bees can sting, and 2. As cute as baby animals of any species may be, they can easily turn into ruthless killers (or in the bee's case, a kamikaze pilot).
Well, this week offered up some more lessons by way of bee. It all started a year ago when my husband developed a sudden fascination with the insects and honey, and possibly a strong desire to own a Hazmat suit. I would love to say that I have some sort of origins story leading up to the bee venture - one that I can release as a prequel several years after a three part series - alas, that script will be forever lost in the mysteries of life. For now, we'll blame it on the drinking water and the liberal media.
This Thursday the year of bee classes and bee magazine window shopping came to fruition as I, my husband and father-in-law prepared the bee habitat out near the barn in the house up nort'. I'll spare you the details of putting up the electric fence. Suffice it to say that it was up after developing my learning curve with post-hole digging, watching the dog clothesline herself on the wire, and preparing to call the ambulance as my father-in-law tested the electric current by touching the wire with his bare hand.
The bees came out. The suits went on. The dog and I maintained our distance. The boys had ordered two hives worth (i.e. six pounds of crawling, buzzing insects)(i.e. around 1,000 of the little buggers). As they began to smoke the transport cages to calm the bees down, they were talking out the instructions to each other. This was what I heard:
"Bert said you just have to put the hole over the hive and bang on the top to get them all down to the bottom."
"Won't that just make them angry?"
"Maybe. We'll have to see."
It was at this point that I took several steps back and became even more thankful for my zoom lens (The guys only ordered two suits, so I was going commando.).
The bees really do pour out of those boxes. Some fly off right away. Others aim for the hive, while some just sort of flop around. They can't really see white. So they're even more baffled by the giant voids of nothingness moving around and hitting them with smoke. Once the drones and scouts were in, the guys brought out the queens in their specialized thrones - really small boxes corked with marshmallows. The other hive members will eat their way through the marshmallows in about 3-4 days. Apparently this gives them time to get used the queen's scent, although I'm personally thinking that it allows the queen a break before she becomes the royal baby machine.
And so, the bees in their new homes and the boys taking off their bee-poop covered digs (Yes, poop. There was a lot. And it's yellow.), I retired to the wonderful safety of the house where I started getting photos of the finches at the feeder from inside the kitchen.
What's that humming sound? Is that my camera? Why is it making angry noises at me? I don't have the button pushed down too - OW! What the!? No. Fucking. Way.
I learned my last lessons for the day: 1. You're never safe from bees., and 2. Bee stingers should be flicked off with a hand or credit card, and never be plucked out, as it causes the venom sack to release.
But lessons learned, I also found my own side of child wrath: taking pleasure that not only was the bee dead, but that its last futile though was, "PROTECT THE HIVE!" Heh, heh. Stupid bee. ...Ow.