Like many fantasy readers, at least those of us who seek out the epic variety, I’m fascinated by all things medieval. I also am pretty hands on. I like to try things and learn things. I especially like to try things and learn things that relate to characters in my books.
I’m also a tree-hugger, I’m not gonna lie. I shave my legs and arm pits, but my house is filled to the brim with energy saving light bulbs, we’re about a year out from installing solar on our rooftop, I refuse to use any sort of pesticide or herbicide in or around the house, and I budget in the extra cash to ensure all our produce and meat are organic and free range.
So perhaps it makes perfect sense that I’ve decided to take up beekeeping. Most of us are aware of the dramatic population decline of the honey bee, and most of us understand the implications to our food supply and botanical biodiversity should the little buggers die out. I’ve been intercropping native blooming plants in the garden for ages, but I felt compelled to take more direct action.
Plus, there’s Bug. A little character in a little story that’s been stewing in a dark shadowy corner of my mind for ages. Bug has an affinity for the multi-legged multifaceted creepy crawlies of the world – particularly those of the buzzing variety. And of course… she’s a beekeeper.
What better way to get to know your character than by learning to do what she does?
Earlier this year I took a beekeeping class, and I just recently hoofed it across town to pick up my very own package of bees. Picking them up was a breeze. A quick in and out at the local bee shop with about twenty of my beekeeping colleagues and I had my package. Installing them in the hive was a bit more of an adventure, and I thought I’d share it with all of you.
The queen comes in a separate cage, called a Queen Cage. Most packages come with a newly bred queen, and if she’s released in with the rest of the bees before they’ve fallen under her thrall they will kill her. So the first step of installing them into the hive is to get the queen transferred over.
Once you’ve got the queen properly wedged in the hive it’s time to dump the bees into the hive. Yes. I said dump. You literally shake them out of the package you transported them in and onto the open box of the hive. I’m not going to lie, I started sweating at this stage. There are roughly 10,000 bees in a package, and they were all tumbling out of a box I was unceremoniously shaking, crashing into an open hive below.
It’s Raining Bees
I expected a bloodbath.
But they were completely disinterested in me. They were too busy checking out the new digs. And probably stretching out their wings – they’d been awfully cramped in that transport package.
That’s a lot of bees.
At this point they all made their way into the hive, I gave them some pollen patties (bee food), put on the lid, and called it a day. I hope these ladies stay this docile forever! I’m not looking forward to that first bee sting. Or subsequent stings for that matter. I *am*, however, looking forward to exploring my character Bug through this process. And to the honey of course.