The night before I was to pick up our two, three pound "packages" of bees, I didn't sleep. I stayed up all night watching videos on YouTube describing how to properly install packages of bees. I mapped out the 30 minute drive to Burnley Farm Apiary and my brain ran through the contingency plans for my contingency plans. I imagined that the bees would fly out of their package and into the car with me while I was driving the 30 long minutes home. Should I bring my bee suit? Should I wear it in the car, just in case.
I got up in the morning. I didn't wake up, because I had never fallen asleep. On a scale of one to 20,000 bees in the car with me, I was at a 10 for anxiety. But, I felt mildly prepared for what lay ahead, after watching YouTube videos for the last 9 hours. That is, until I saw that it was raining and 55 degrees outside. I knew it wouldn't be a good idea to install them in the rain. I didn't know what to expect.
I dropped my daughter off at preschool and headed out for Apiary. When I arrived, all of the packages of bees were lined up on a table, under an awning. So many bees. Thurman Burnley was waiting by the tables, I parked my car and walked over confidently, like I hadn't been awake for the last 24 hours.
He told me to pick out my packages, and so I did. As soon as I reached for a package, I noticed the stragglers. Bees desperate to be in the box, but sadly on the outside looking in. For a second I wondered if I needed gloves, but I knew I would be discovered as the girl who had no idea what she was doing. I was feigning confidence when he suggested I double check the queens to make sure they were alive and well. My breath caught for a second. Check the queens, check the queens, yes, check the queens. He rapped the package down hard on the table, shaking lose the bees that were clustered around the can of syrup and the queen cage. I checked. They were happy and healthy. I put the packages in the back of my car and had a long talk with Thurman and another farmer who had pulled up during our conversation. I learned quickly that bee people don't judge new bee people. They were so happy to answer my questions, and smiled nicely when I admitted to being up all night watching videos.
Once back to the car I could tell that the bees were clustered tightly together and cold, not interested in me in the slightest. They were homeless, hungry, and nearly silent. I drove home in peace, barely listening for rogue buzzing from the poor stragglers stuck on the outside, looking in. When I got home, I realized that it was too cold to install them in their hives. With no comb, and no foundations, it would be a chilly cavern for them. Instead, I set their boxes on a ledge in the half bathroom. It rained for the next two days, and there they stayed, next to the window, happy and warm.
I became grateful to have them in the half bath, as it gave me and my five year old a window into a world we would never otherwise see for two days. At night, as soon as the sun would set, they would become silent. As soon as the sun would rise, they would begin to buzz. The bees on the outside, only cared about one thing. Being on the inside. They were desperate to belong to their colony.
After two days, it was time to shake them into their hive. I suited up in my Flow Hive suit, took them out, one package at a time, and shook them in. They poured out of the box as I scream-whispered to myself: "You can do this". I didn't know what it would be like to be surrounded by a cloud of 20,000 bees. Would I get stung? x 20,000? The answer was the same as it is for most everything. Reality doesn't hold a candle to what I can drum up in my quiet moments. They were palpably and visibly happy to be in their permanent home. I watched them for a bit and headed in, ready to shake a hundred more colonies into a hundred more hives.
Hi! I'm Amy. I am a former commercial photographer who has travelled all over the world and finally landed in my happy place - Historic Boscobel Farm.