Last year, we decided to try our hand at beekeeping. We thought we'd start with two hives, so we went to a beekeeping class, bought all of the supplies and then, of course, purchased a nuc of bees. But soon after last Fall's fires, we realized one of our hives had swarmed. And then a month after that, the other one disappeared as well. There was no sign of them.
So over the winter, we started the process of cleaning out the hive boxes, questioning whether we would continue our beekeeping adventure. And then in April, before we had cleaned out the second box, we caught a swarm of bees. Well “caught” isn’t the right word actually. They just moved in. So our beekeeping adventures were destined to continue. We realized, however, that as busy as our lives were at the moment, we needed help to get going again. Enter Matt the beekeeper at Oregon Beekeeper. He will be managing our hives and teaching me at the same time so that I can take over the beekeeping duties eventually (after harvest). Thank goodness for Matt!
However, this isn’t the first time we’ve had help with our beekeeping aspirations. Back in San Diego, we were lucky enough to be part of the “host-a-hive” program that Hilary Kearney (The Girl Next Door Honey) had implemented. It was a great introduction to beekeeping -- I was able to provide a safe space for a few colonies and observe and learn, but I wasn't responsible for the care of the hives. But we did get off to a quite exciting start!
On the evening of the bees arrival, Hilary drove up in her white Prius, filled with bee supplies and two bee hives, and the first thing she said as she walked up was…”we have a bit of a problem.” Not the first thing I’d necessarily want to hear from the bee expert, but OK. Apparently she’d had what she called a “bee leak.” Bees had escaped and had clumped onto the side of their hive. In her car. While she was driving. On the freeway. She had driven almost an hour to get to our house with two leaky hives in her back seat! This woman was made of steel....
The problem at this point was -- how would we transport a leaky hive down the hill to their designated spot without getting stung too many times. Hilary had her bee suit of course, but the hive was really heavy and she had been counting on our help. So we came up with a plan -- if we could just get the hive out of the car and over to our wheelbarrow, we could slowly wheel it down the hill. And by “we” I mean Hilary and Mark. He volunteered to hold the other end, with a sturdy pair of gloves and a desire (perhaps?) to make up for all of the times he had harassed bees as a kid. I stepped into the background, to stay out of their way, and “supervise” as they carefully pulled the hive out of the Prius. A couple of bees broke off of the clump and started swarming around the garage light with an angry buzzing. After a few careful steps over to the wheelbarrow and a gentle landing, Hilary and Mark headed down the hill with me and a flashlight leading the way. Hive number one was put in place with no incident and we headed back up the hill to retrieve hive number two. Hive number two was retrieved from the Prius, gently placed in the wheelbarrow, taken down the hill, put in place and we were all set.
Hilary then got a bottle of oil from her car to put in the bowl-like footers of the hive to keep ants away from the honey and we discussed how to get an accessible water source for the bees so that they didn’t feel compelled to raid our neighbors’ bird baths or fountains. Suddenly I heard a very angry buzzing near my ear and Hilary calmly said “You’ve got a bee in your hair -- come here and let me find it so it doesn’t sting you.”
Now granted, one of the questions Hilary asks before she places a hive is ”How do you feel about bee stings” and I answered “I have no problem with them.” But the last time I had been stung was in high school, on my foot, when I had stepped on one. I had never had an angry bee trapped in my hair before. So although I was desperately wanting to jump around and/or start running, I didn’t. Because well, “nerves-of-steel” Hilary was there and I didn’t want her to regret her decision to place a hive with us. It took great self-control for me to stand there and let her look for the bee in my hair as I heard it getting angrier and angrier.
Then came the sting. The little gal had fallen into my shirt and landed at the top of my chest and so that’s where she stung. And THAT was when I started dancing around a little trying to flick her off. No nerves of steel for me. I was a bee wimp. There was no stinger so it didn’t hurt too badly, but I went inside to take a look, try to regain my composure, and put a saliva/baking soda mix on the sting, as Hilary had suggested.
However, once inside, I could still hear the angry buzzing! So now I really started freaking out. I ran through the house thinking it was following me, I flipped my hair around, I twirled around and ran through the house some more -- but the buzzing was still there. Hoping desperately that 1) I could get away from the bee and 2) that Hilary wouldn’t see me through the window, I continued to twirl, and run and flip my hair. But that sound followed me everywhere.
Finally, Mark came in, saw me running around, made me stop, found the bee hanging onto my pants, and put it out of its (and my) misery. And at that very moment, Hilary came in with a big jar of honey. My initiation was complete -- 1 bee sting and 1 jar of honey. I was officially a member of the beekeeping community.
Hopefully this new adventure in beekeeping won't be quite as exciting!
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife, English teacher, writer, and lavender farmer who lives in Dundee Oregon .