Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Arriving In April

No, this isn't a honey bee but smile, I'm saving all the pictures of bees I have on this computer for the next blog. I haven't time to look in my CD's of pictures this has been one of THOSE days. I swear I had the house vacuumed, mopped, the bathroom clean, and dishes done before bed. Then I woke up and cuddled the kids reading stories and having a lazy morning until I went to the freezer to retrieve frozen apple cinnamon waffles for the kid's breakfast. The freezer wasn't freezing anymore. Things went into high gear. I had to get the kids ready and move as much produce as possible to the other freezers. Drive 80 miles to pick up a new one. Yes, the munchkins in tow and of course they had to be fed lunch, because they didn't eat much for breakfast in the rush. I needed more diapers and the like so we hit one store more and came home. Dropped by the corrals to do chores and got the four-wheel drive truck stuck. All four tires in four wheel gear and all four tires spinning on the snow that had begun to melt and was in a state of more ice than slush.  Called a sweet gentleman to rescue me and he helped me unload the freezer in the garage. Then those sweet innocent half pints turned into grouches and I've sat and typed while holding one and then the other.  Despite a challenging day I need to tell you the exciting news.
The man who made me give up bee keeping has insisted that I order bees for our new home - immediately. Is he fickle? Well no because when he insisted I quit bee keeping I had to agree with him that we were feeding the bees instead of them us. Yes, over ten years had past and the prairie was dried up to nubbins not a green thing in sight. Yes the drought was far worse than the dust bowel of Kansas we read about in the history books but still, I love my bees and hated giving them up. Surely sometime the drought would end. It has but now we don't have any bees.

My plan was to ask Kirk if I might order them next year but he has been asking me if I've called yet for the last several days. What is the urgency I don't know but I don't argue. I figured maybe the Lord was speaking to him and I just wasn't listening at the time. Anyway you look at it, I get bees so I'm happy. 

Not sure I can keep up with everything that will require my attention this year but I love bee keeping. With them in the yard all year it should make it far easier than traveling to the Buffalo Ranch each time I want to take a peak inside or just listen to their hum. Did you know you can tell the health of the hive by its hum? Since the decision was made we now had to figure where to order from. Maybe you have a good memory for names and numbers but I don't so and since we had had the same bees for some years I wasn't even sure the company was still in business. So with the foot and mouth disease child on my lap, I began searching the Internet. So many to choose from. None of them from our home state though.

In the end I decided to drag out my book where I keep the information of companies I have ordered from before and rang the number I'd used last time. When the gentleman answered, (it is not a typical bee company that is on the Internet so he just says, "Hello.")
 I said "Is this by chance ............. and do you still do bees? I ordered from you some years back....." He laughed and said yes, but he just packages the bees now but doesn't deliver them anymore and gave me the name and number of the gentleman who does it for him.

These bee keepers winter in northern California and summer here in Wyoming. On the trip here they drop off bee packages to commercial bee keepers in the area. We happened to get their phone number from one such bee keeper years back. This is a far less expensive way of ordering bees as we are paying a commercial price and skip the huge shipping costs of life flighting two queens and eight pounds of bees. Okay, maybe not quite life flighting but they are often shipped next day mail and that isn't cheap.

I will miss the occasional comical events of picking them up at the post office. Those fuzzy cute little chicks that arrive might hang around for a short while before you get a phone call but I'll guarantee the minute the workers punch in and see two four pound packages equating to thousands upon thousands of bees they don't wait around especially if this is something new to them. Think of how many people you know are scared of bees. If by chance a few outside, not inside and riding piggy back you might hear, "Hurry! Quick! Some have escaped." They don't know they aren't going anywhere even if you know and it does not good to try and convince them. You want a good relationship with your mail person.

Of course these are the same bees the grand kids and I will watch their comings and goings from just a few feet in front of their hives. Then again maybe they do have a reason to panic. There was those two packages of bees we got from another outfit in California. The queen began to lay and it wasn't long and when you opened up the top lid of the hive, they came out in a black swarm and attacked. Must of been crossed with Killer Bees. They did come from the south. 

Had to walk around in the field for an hour afterwards until most of the bees had gotten bored and went back to the hive or died from stinging me. Then it was a race to the pickup. My designated driver that summer was our teenage daughter who was learning to drive and relished any opportunity to get behind the wheel. She waited for my signal, then took off with me in hot pursuit. I'd jump on the tail gate and she'd speed off along the two track dirt road through 600 acres of alfalfa until the wind whipped the few persistent bees into giving up the battle and left for their hive.

We fixed the problem by buying two new queens from another outfit. The queens come already bred and all the eggs she will ever lay are already fertilized. Yup, one wild day of hanky panky with several handsome drones and she's pregnant for life. Talk about lasting consequences to your actions. As for the Killer Queens, we assassinated them. Not an easy task to find one slightly longer and larger bee, the queen, in a hive with up to a 100,000 bees in peak honey flow time. That is why you choose to search in the middle of the day when many of the workers are off foraging. where there is tens of thousands of bees during the honey flow. Still not an easy task and the reason why many companies for a fee offer marked queens. They have a paint spot on their backs.  

After being without a queen for three days, the hive will usually except a new one. Wait any longer and one of the workers will begin to lay eggs. They aren't fertilized so no baby bees and the hive will die. This worker will never mate. She doesn't have royal jelly coursing through her body. As for the old guard from Hell, they will have died in about six weeks during the vigor of honey flow season when they literally die of over work. Left behind is the sweet dispositional offspring from the new queen. She is usually good for three years or so.  

Then there was that time in late fall when I finally got around to pulling the hives apart to remove extra honey and prepare them for the trip home from the field to our backyard for the winter. Really it was my fault. They went into full protective mode. If I stole all their honey that late in the year they had no way of replacing it and they would die of starvation.

I speak several languages, a pretty fair imitation of a momma pig, horse body language and the like, but I've never mastered the bee dance. You know wiggle your butt just so to tell the exact direction to fly to the best flower nectar patch and the other dance where you convince the bee council that your selection for a new home to swarm to is best? Or rather any other dance for that matter and alas, though I tried to wiggle, "I come in peace." it my butt giggled instead. Because of the language barrier nearly fifty died that day leaving their sabers sticking out all over my arms. Yes, I should have arrived earlier. Yes, I should have known better and worn more than just my shirt and coveralls. Yes, hind sight is a very good teacher but for once couldn't she have been on time.

In case you were wondering, no, I didn't end up in the hospital. I just took a little more adrenal meds and a dose of allergy medications and watched my arms turn red, then redder, and redder yet as the swelling work its way up my arm. It took about four days to reach its full height before beginning the long process of shrinking. It was quite fascinating as my body has a tendency to react rather slowly. Put my doctor in a full grown panic when I phoned to ask how much medication I should take with my Addison's Disease but I wasn't so worried. 

I'll never forget the time our son sported a Cleon eyebrow from his first trip to the bees. One bee sting and the thing swelled up huge for almost a week. Quite funny really but we never let him help with the bees again. Mosquito bites use to swelled up really big on him too. An insect thing I always figured. Grandpa always said you could build up resistance to bee stings where you no longer reacted. I suppose that is if you aren't allergic in the first place.

Why one bee sting will cause you to swell up big and then another one barely leaves a red spot I'm not sure but I'm just glad to the bees will be arriving in April and maybe some day I'll figure that out too.

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