If you don’t know me very well and it’s not already obvious, I’m a worrier…a tad on the neurotic side…at times, slightly reactive even. I tend to handle myself fairly well in the midst of a crisis, but the before and after process can be a bit of a shit-show. M, on the other hand, is the picture of equanimity throughout. If something unexpected happens or if there is cause for alarm, he will sit back and withhold reaction or judgement until enough information is available to make a calm, calculated decision about next steps. If some potentially difficult or distressful event is in the offing, he will wait for it to actually happen before responding and when he does, it lacks the truly dramatic flair that makes being human so exciting…that scene…at the end of Steel Magnolias when Sally Field is melting down at the cemetery…that could be me at almost any moment for even the tiniest of reasons sometimes. M….NEVER. It’s all very rational and common sense with him, if not a tad too C3PO for my taste. Facing his wall of calm in the midst of my (sometimes) extra-emotional reactions makes me feel like a true crazy person.
HOWEVER….every once in a very great while…something will happen that pushes M’s very tiny hidden buttons and I get to sit back and feel just a bit better about myself. Take, for example, the arrival of our bees, or lack thereof. Our bees, in transit via USPS, were late. Very late. Now mind you bees are not made to travel and especially not in 95 degree weather. And we had been waiting for these bees for a whole year and would have to wait another year if they did not arrive soon and all did not go well. M was positively beside himself. Never has a package been so tracked…I swear he was on the computer and on the phone every hour, on the hour, the day the package arrived. THE MAN WAS ACTUALLY WORRIED. Visibly worried…frantic even. And when the call finally came saying that the bees had arrived, we actually turned around (on our way to lunch), dropped me off and he went off to fetch his bees in rush hour traffic. Along with a cooler full of ice (to cool the bees in transit) and an ice-cold spray bottle of sugar-water (to ease the bees in transit). When he finally arrived, it was with a look of concern I almost didn’t recognize. A full third of the bees (1-1.5 inches worth) had died in transit. The USPS, marvel of inefficiency that it is, had placed them in a super hot, sunny place with no ventilation for hours upon arriving in Austin, despite M’s multiple phone calls to avoid this very thing and despite the instructions to keep them in a cool ventilated place. We immediately brought them inside and sat them on the kitchen table with the fan on and air cranked up to give them a rest before installation. The low-grade humming was a tad disconcerting, I’ll admit. As was the vision of 6,000 cranky honey bees getting loose in our house. M, however had bigger concerns. Honey bees only live 30 days and almost half of them were now dead. At this point there was a good chance that we didn’t have enough workers to create enough brood to sustain the queen, assuming she wasn’t one of the fallen. If the queen is dead, and you are already under-strength, chances are, you’re f*cked and will have to wait another year for more bees. After harried phone calls to our bee supplier in Georgia we decided that our only choice was to try to install the bees immediately (you are typically supposed to wait a few hours). Given our (my) last experience with an angry traumatized hive, we (I) suited up with extra attention to detail and set out to install our hive. If you go online and Google videos for bee installation, you will see most beekeepers installing a hive without bonnets or gloves or protective clothing of any kind. M was tempted to “full monty” it so to speak, but settled on a bonnet with no gloves.
As it turns out, neither a bonnet or gloves were necessary. Well worked bees of Italian lineage are SUPER docile. Instead of an angry, erratic flying pattern, punctuated by Kamikaze dive bombs toward our esophagi, we were greeted with slow, almost drunken, curious fliers. Michel installed the hive with bare hands without a single sting. The queen, replete with identifying red dot, had survived and was installed along with the rest of the brood. Installing a hive consists of placing the queen (in her sugar/wax cork sealed travel suite) in the hive and then pouring the bees on top into the brood super. You then let the remaining bees crawl out of the package on their own, following the scent of the queen into the closed hive. Its been several weeks since our initial install and after much coddling, checking and sugar-water, we are still not sure if they will make it. M has been the very picture of a doting mother hen with the bees. He checks on them as much as permitted and spends hours on bee forums uploading pictures of the hive and trying to cajole them into making enough brood. He doesn’t even bother with bonnet or gloves anymore and even I feel fairly comfortable enough to snap photos from a few feet away without protection. We are keeping our fingers crossed and have high hopes that our little ladies will make it. However, even if they don’t it has been a learning experience for everyone. M, perhaps has a greater understanding of my tendency to fret about things you have no control over-because you are their “mommy” and you just can’t help yourself (see chickens) and I have a greater appreciation for M’s latent maternal instincts and my ability to remain collected throughout our little bee apocalypse. Pics of install below!