Friday, April 2, 2010
Lesson #3: Wear Lots Of Layers When Picking Up Your Bees
We ordered our bee packages several weeks ago from a small business called Waldo Bees. Greg said when he placed his order over the phone the guy had a really low voice. So logically I came to the conclusion that he was a pirate. Who wouldn't? I was also told we would be meeting the pirate in the parking lot of a bar in Waldo to pick up our bee packages. Thus, this is where the pirate and the bar come into play. Anyway per the usual we got a little lost on the way there because it just wouldn't be a real road trip if we didn't. It didn't take long to find the bar after we figured out the right direction we should be going in. There were several pickup trucks parked there along with a good sized trailer and stacks add stacks of bee packages lined up next to it. I guess we were in the right place.
We had to give each other a little pep talk before we got out of the car. "We can do this, no problem. Its gonna be awesome." There was no turning back after we put two crates of 10,000 bees(3lbs of bees in each box to give you a better idea)in the back of my car. Greg went up and talked to the guy holding the clipboard. You always know who is in charge by who is holding the clipboard. It was the pirate guy with the really low voice. Only he really didn't look much like a pirate to be honest. It would have been a much more exciting story if he had so I was a little disappointed but one thing I did find fairly hilarious about him was the odd contrast of his tattered and dirty bib overalls with his blue tooth headset he was wearing. He was obviously way more technologically advanced than I am despite the fact that he looked like a farmer- the 1900's era farmer, not the 2000's era kind. Shame on me for stereotyping. Lesson learned.
The pirate checked his clipboard and yelled something about being "all paid up" and "two packages" to another guy who was removing the bee packages from the trailer. He had lots of facial hair and was all decked out in camo. Do the bees have a harder time stinging you if you are wearing camo? The guy picked up two packages and followed us to my car. We opened the tailgate and he sat the boxes right on the floor. This is where Greg and I got our very first look at the packages of bees up close and shared a terrified look. It wasn't the thousands of bees crawling around inside the box that frightened us (although it would probably freak out any normal person) it was the 100 or so bees crawling around on the OUTSIDE OF THE BOXES that had us worried. Seriously, there were a whole bunch of bees just hanging on to the outside of the boxes that the camo guy sat in my car. Fun. When Greg tried to put the packages in a box and close the flaps, the guy said "I wouldn't do that if I were you." I barely listened to anything else the guy said to Greg but he certainly didn't offer any useful information about what we SHOULD do. All I managed to hear(I was too busy freaking out) was him explaining that they need lots of air and cool temperatures during transportation. There are so many bees crammed into a little box that they can overheat. I really don't know why the camo guy didn't acknowledge the fact or make any effort to knock or brush off the rogue bees before plopping them down in my car and I don't know why we didn't try to brush them off ourselves or question him about how to keep them confined. I guess we didn't want to look like we didn't know what we were doing. We didn't want to look like we were worried about a hundred loose bees flying around in our car while we are driving 75 miles per hour down the highway. Beekeepers are cool like that.
As soon as the guy walked away we moved the boxes into a couple extra cardboard boxes and closed the flaps. Our game plan was to drive fast, keep the ac on full blast and hope to hell we make it home before they found a way out and came looking for us. It got so chilly in the car that my hands started to go numb, Greg was shivering uncontrollably and we both could see our breaths. We made it about half way home when I heard a buzz and looked through my mirror in time to see a little black shadow pop out of one of the boxes. It was just one bee. We could handle one little bee loose in the car. I started getting the creepy crawlies. I even imagined I was feeling a bee crawling around on my foot. Unfortunately, by the time I had dropped Greg off at his place that one little rogue bee had turned into four or five. Some were just crawling around on the windows and some were airborne. And by the time I got half-way to my parent's place where we were storing them until that evening, there were about twenty bees flying around in my car. Miraculously, I managed to get home without getting stung once! When I got out of the car I found that there were a lot more bee escape artists than I originally thought. First, the imaginary bee crawling around on my foot turned out to be a real one. Second, There were about 20 or thirty bees crawling around the floor and the outside of the cardboard box. And I managed accomplished all of this before 9:30 in the morning!
I got the packaged bees in the garage(don't worry only 30 more or so would get loose in the garage throughout the day)and spent the next twenty minutes trying to get the rogue bees out of my vehicle. On my way to work in the afternoon more bees turned up in my car. I even had one fly out of my purse as I was walking through the parking lot. All in all, a pretty uneventful day. In defense of the bees, it was really amazing how docile they were. I was able to brush some of them out with my bare hands. Luckily for me this was probably partially due to the fact that the inside my car was 35 degrees, which kept them sluggish, but also (hopefully) because we picked a really gentle breed of bee to work with-Italians. There are a variety of breeds of honey bee that you can buy and the Italians are popular for this reason.
My next blog will have some pictures and will be about installing the bees in the hives. Ironically, this is probably going to be the least dramatic story I've posted yet. Stay tuned! If you read my blog and haven't become a follower yet please do. You can get email updates each time I post a new blog. I will also try to get some recipes using honey every once in a while. That should be fun.