Bees in a Subaru

Well, it beats snakes on a plane any day.

A couple of days ago my better half and I got up at dawn and headed across the border into upstate New York to fetch home our new adoptees.  Four hours later we were back home with a big cardboard box of bees–five or six thousand of them. They were good on the trip (“good” in this case is defined as nobody got out of the box and wandered around in the car, and I never once had to turn around and say to the box “Don’t make me come back there!).  It was a piece of cake–we even stopped at a diner for a quick breakfast on the way back, taking care that the bees were secure and that the car was parked in cool shade with all the windows rolled down. I think I need to get one of those little yellow warning signs that says “Bees on board.”

It was an experience–the farmer (who appeared to be no older than 23 or 24) had given us his street address as “number 91-ish.”  He wasn’t kidding. Turning in at #91 took us up a long, harrowing, unpaved road, rocky and rutted and muddy, and from there to a spectacular enormous couple of partially plowed fields at the top of a high hill–best views possible of the heavily wooded and beautiful area.  And that was all–save for a little pup tent, a slightly larger tent, some lawn chairs, a number of beer bottles, and–on an improvised table–some lit and flickering candles that smelled marvelously of beeswax and honey. We knew we were in the right place.

Eventually a young woman popped out of the smaller tent and used her cell phone to call the farmer, who, she told us, had gotten up at about the same time we had, beating the heat as he plowed a field ahead of the sun, and that he was probably back at his house, a lovely old farmhouse at the foot of the hill, washing up. We could see the house from the hilltop, but had somehow missed it on our way up (it was in a forest of trees and rhododendrons in full bloom). He came up in his truck about 15 minutes later and in the meantime we amused ourselves, the better half and the young woman and I, in looking at an enormous turtle in the middle of one of the fields–huge, and exactly the color of the mud –when the young farmer came up, he hoisted it out of the bed, afraid it would lay eggs that he would then accidentally plow over, and moved it down the hill to a creek. Then we followed him back down the hill where he plucked our nuc hive (a set of 5 frames of pollen, honey, and baby bees–half what a full hive would have, with a queen and about 6,000 workers to attend her) out of a big stack of 100 or so waiting to be picked up, we shook hands, he wished us will with our new children, and off we went.

At home, we set the bee box (looking rather like a giant’s shoebox) into the cool dark garage to settle down a little bit. The better half took advantage of the break to upgrade the painting he did on our favorite hive body–it was pretty weather-beaten.

Of course, a painter can’t work without someone to comment on how he’s doing. Everybody’s a critic: I’m looking at you, Crispin dog.

Later in the afternoon, with our kids and a friend in attendance, we lifted the new frames of bees into their new home (much in the way you would move file folders in a drawer), gave them a big bottle of sugar water to refresh them, and left them to do their work.  They were a little unsettled in their new environment (I got stung once), but before we walked back up to the house they were already zipping in and out of their new abode and checking out the dappled nook in which the hive sits, with wild roses in bloom on one side of them and blackberry flowering on the other side. Now we won’t bother them for a week or 10 days, at which point we’ll check in on them and see whether they’re filling up the empty frames in the hive body and are ready for another story on their house.

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