This weekend I left the work at work. It is a busy time of year with coursework and revision classes and preparing the students for the upcoming exams.  After a hectic couple of weeks and another frantic week on the horizon I decided that I needed a break for the weekend, I needed something different.  I had plans to spend time with the lovely Sharon and the little man, plans to relax and read and sip fine coffee in cafes.  All these plans were dashed by a phone call and I ended up doing something very different.

The phone rang on Thursday and the lovely Sharon found it difficult to decode the accent on the other end.  It was a confused conversation that the lovely Sharon was convinced was a wrong number until bees were mentioned, then it began to make sense.  ‘The Bee Man’ wanted a chat with me.  It is still too early in the year to buy bees as they are normally sold as ‘nucs’  which are composed of a queen and a couple of thousand in her entourage.  Instead of a nuc in a few weeks time I was being offered a whole hive now.  This basically means that I have a better chance of them surviving the winter and a good chance of getting some honey this year.  If I went for the classic nuc option I would have to wait until next summer to get any honey.  This was an offer I could not refuse, but some preparation needed to be made.

On Friday at the end of school I ran about trying to sort out tents for an upcoming expedition.  Poles and pegs were everywhere as 30 pupils tried to figure out what equipment they needed.  It shocked me, every year it does, that some pupils realised that they have bits of tents at home for months that they had not returned.  Amongst the mayhem I simply wanted to get home as the weekend’s tasks for me seemed massive on the horizon.  I had to start the apiary.

For a couple of weeks the wood has been lying in the driveway.  Enough wood to construct a fence that will help define boundaries for the little man.  Outside fence = good.  Inside fence = bad.  He is still far too impatiently small for the need for the fence.  However, building a fence around bee hives is a lot easier when there are no bees.  I shuddered to think of the prospect of hammering together a fence near an active hive.  When I left the tents and pegs and poles I went home to trim the lawn for the first cut of the year.  Then in the longer evening I had enough time to dig a hole and sink one fence post.  It was one post out of the ten that needed to be sunk but it was a start.

This meant that Saturday began early.  Getting up at 7am is technically a lie-in since I am usually up at six mid week.  The early light helps with this.  I threw myself into the fencing right from the start of today.  I dug, hammered, dug, hammered, dug and then hammered until I was weary and could hammer no more. At four o’clock I finished the apiary fence.  In fact it still needs a gate to be built but I don’t think the bees will mind.  This left me just enough time to tidy up before I put on by bee proof suit and jumped in the car to head up to the Roe Valley area to meet the bees.

My first meeting with the bees could not have been better.  It had been a hot day and the air was slowly cooling.  By the time I arrived at the hives they were ending a day of gathering.  They were belly full and basket stuffed.  The beekeeper selling me the hive wanted to give me a complete look at the stock.  All went well until we went looking for the queen.  Three times we went through the whole hive playing a game of ‘where’s Wally’.  Then we decided to close it up and let a few more bees come back from foraging.  Maybe the queen was hiding in the dark corners?  We gave her a little time to relax as we chatted and admired the views on this halcyon evening. We went through the hive one more time and spotted the queen on the last frame.  She marked the end of the inspection and all was sealed up and packed into the back of my car. A couple of stragglers back late from the day were denied their home as the boot was shut.

All windows were wound down for the long voyage home.  Bees are not happy in transit, they panic and super heat themselves running the risk of a literal melt down of wax and baby bees.  As darkness drew near I felt very cold with all four windows down.  When driving fast I felt the chill.  When slowed down I smelt the sickly sweet scent of bee panic hormones.

As darkness drew around I pulled into the lane to the cottage.  Straight away I dragged the surprisingly heavy hive out of the car and set them into their new home.  I removed the seals and they stayed in their safe shelter.  Tomorrow they will emerge in the morning sun and find themselves far from home.  They will find their new home and I hope they will be happy.  Time will tell.

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