Sunday, June 15, 2014:
There is only one hive left in the home yard right now, the others being up behind the garden at the monastery. Yesterday that last hive threw a swarm, which, after forming a vortex over the bonfire pit and buzzing like a dynamo for twenty minutes or so, obliged us by coalescing in a dwarf apple tree on the front lawn, where a step ladder, a hive body baited with comb smeared with cappings and a frame of brood taken from the home hive, and a smoker enabled us to catch them again. Normally, we like to work bees in broad daylight, preferably with a bright sun shining and all the field bees out where they belong, in the field; but we were busy all afternoon, and it was dark when we took them up to the monastery. Our plan was to unite the three thousand or so itinerant worker bees with the lesser of the two colonies up there and let the queens duke it out.
For two hours that day we had worked the swarm with bare head, face, hands – arms, even – without a sting. Not so now. The intrepid bee-handler stepping confidently forward into the glare of the truck headlights wore no protective gear. All that was needed was to pop the covers, super and queen excluder off the south hive, lay a single sheet of newspaper over the exposed hive box, and mount the second box, the one containing the swarm, over the paper. Then, on with the excluder, super and covers, center them, and away we go. Piece of cake.
Only, with the quiet ‘pop’ of the propolis seal when the hive tool levered up the super, the colony came to life, sizzling like a frying pan full of bacon. It was dark, remember, and we couldn’t see the bees. We pried up the shallow box, which my appropriately hatted and veiled co-worker removed, and began levering off the metal grid of the queen excluder, when the night was suddenly full of bees. You know, they don’t even need to sting you, the buzzing is enough when it’s against your face, or your wrist, or your midriff. In about five seconds there were bees in my shirt, tazering my arms, and working their way into my hair. I took off into the night at a high rate of speed, shucking clothes as I ran, and brought up at the blueberry patch, minus most of my wardrobe, madly combing bees out of my hair with my fingers. My reading glasses were a casualty, trampled in the melee.
Shawn, the prudenty veiled, finished that hive transfer alone, calmly, and unstung.