I’m not afraid of bees, but I’d prefer not to be stung, thank you very much. I don’t get hysterical when they approach, but I respect their personal space. And I really appreciate the favor they do for us with that whole pollination thing.
Despite my highly evolved and intelligent perspective on our yellow-and-black-banded friends, I was still a little nervous about feeding the 20,000 Italian honeybees who live in my friend’s beehive.
Before approaching the hive, I donned long canvas gloves and a beekeeping veil/hat and tucked my jeans into my boots. An ant would have had a hard time getting through all that fabric. Unfortunately the hat kept slipping down over my eyes, so I could only see south of my neck, leaving me open to aerial attacks.
Amid my nervous chatter, my friend John assured me that Italian honeybees are lovers, not fighters. Paisan! Still, the surest way to piss off a bee is to mess with its home.
The hive itself wasn’t very intimidating—it looks like a white box. It is a white box. Following John’s instructions, I removed the lid. Nothing scary so far—lots of bees ignoring the interruption, like my kids watching the Disney channel.
Next I removed old bags of sugar water, along with a few dead bees who paid the ultimate price for their Thanksgiving overindulgence.
At this point, a few bees meandered onto my gloves. Almost no chance of a sting, but since I’m so good at freaking out, I decided to freak out a little. That’s when my chattering kicked into high gear.
My beloved golden retriever, Scout, who can’t figure out how to jump through the doggy door, probably could have done what I was doing, and yet I had questions.
It was time to put in the bag of fresh sugar water. Several paisan lounged about, in danger of getting squashed.
Me: Move, bees!
John: They’re fine.
Me: But won’t they get squashed?
John: No, just lay it down.
Me: But they’re in the way.
John: Ok, there is a bunch flying out. You need to put it down.
Then John handed me a knife to cut the bag in a few places.
Me: I can’t cut it!
John: You’re using the wrong side. Turn it around?
Me: Turn the bag around?
John: Turn the knife around!
Eventually I cut the bag. Then it was time to put the lid back on and dance around the yard to shoo away any lingering bees. The dance was my idea; I’m pretty sure John doesn’t do that. The whole process took about two minutes.
It was neat. No bee-related epiphanies, except maybe to pay closer attention to which side of a knife is the dull side. Also, I have nice, patient friends (thank you, John).