Saturday, May 20, 2006

Meditations on a Catastrophe

Well friends, our Russian bees have arrived.

Yesterday evening, Rob and I took a lovely drive down to Middlebury in the pouring rain to meet Kirk Webster and secure our final nucleus colony of bees, the ones I've been dying to get our hands on - the Russians. The drive was, for the most part, uneventful. After we fueled my car up in Shelburne and paid an immoral amount of money for gasoline (no political comment here), Rob got some snacks in the store and became giddy on the drive south. I can't rightly say exactly what substance (sugar, endorphins, adrenaline, ???) was influencing Rob's behavior on the drive south, but he was notably activated, fidgetting, singing and yelling very loudly into my right ear. It was quite a sight to see. He then made fun of my music, calling Phish and Paul Simon "grey-haired hippie music." I explained to him that I didn't have any rap music (his musical preference) with me. At this point, his mood became so sullen and dejected that to ameliorate his suffering we resorted to listening to the radio, and discussed how General Hayden and his Merry Men were probably tracking all of our calls. And that describes the drive south.

Kirk and pals were set up on the side of the road, clad heavily in rain slickers and galoshes and standing next to the beeyard. The operation was quick and easy. Pop the trunk, the nice gentleman puts the 8-frame nuc in the back of the car, and you hand over the check for $150. They were all very nice people, but we didn't really stand around to chat too long. We were in and out in less than 10 minutes, easy come, easy go. Rob got a great picture with the keepers. Kirk is the bright yellow gentleman, and the two people on either side of Rob were helpers - both equally cool people.

So we got the nuc back home and put it in the mud room. The rain was nasty and the bees were probably stressed as it was, so we opted to move them out of the nuc box in fairer weather, which came this morning. Well, a lull in the deluge, at least. In any event, it was time to move them.

So, I got the bees off of the porch and marched them around back. As I did this, I arrived at an unfortunate observation - apparently, this nuc had an unsecured bottomboard, which suddenly slipped open, unleashing thousands of unhappy and disoriented bees on a veil-less and gloveless Michael. Now, how this happened I do not know. I guess we assumed the deep box (the nuc) with the bees in it was stapled to the modified bottom board. We had it in the car and on the porch exactly as I was carrying it, but no separation happened. As far as I can tell, the sheer weight of the deep (and probably some propolis) must have kept the two pieces of wood together for the trip and internment on the porch. In any event, walking to the yard, this attachment slid away and I was mobbed. So I had no choice but to drop the sucker and run for the door a few feet away.

Luckily I only recieved a few stings. Our dogs got...well...a few more.

Eventually, the bees did get transferred and put next to the others. With all the trauma of the last 24 hours, though, it was probably not a good idea to check on the queen. In the event of too much trauma, sometimes the hive will blame the queen and kill her - exactly what we don't want to have happen. These bees were understandably VERY UPSET. So, long story short, the Russians are in their new home now, but the weather and the circumstance kept us from a real inspection of our new friends. But one thing is for sure. There are a LOT of them!


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