When we first got into beekeeping a few years ago, someone warned me that as we grew in size I would wonder where all the time went. They told us that our first year, that heady moment when we brought home our first two nucleus colonies and watched in awe as they grew and began to store honey, would be the easiest year we ever had.
I scoffed at the idea. After all, as we become more practiced, as we learn how to read bees better and know when things are going well or badly, wouldn’t it make sense that the work would become more efficient?
As I write this, I have a small smirk on my face. I should have known better. I should have recognized that as we went from two to 20 to 40 to now nearly 100 hives, the work would not abate. We’re pretty efficient now, and there’s no question that we’ll be a lot more efficient next year, and the year after that and so on and so on. But it seems that as the bees have wound their way into our hearts, our lives – and our pocketbooks – they have consumed us.
The other night over glasses of wine we tried to think of what we did BB. Before Bees. Before we planned our after-work lives around managing bees, moving hives, pulling, extracting, bottling and selling honey. Before we started worrying about why this queen was failing, or why that hive was being robbed out by an adjacent one. Before we discovered that weather applications on the phone were more useful than Facebook or Twitter. Before we check our calendar for bee work before taking on any other challenges. Before our friends learned the phrase “sorry, we’re out dealing with the bees this weekend.”
We’ve learned how to spot a booming queenright hive from the outside, without even opening it. Conversely, we look at each other with worried eyes when we see a colony struggling.
Our garage is no longer a storage place for unused sports equipment or the “I-can’t-get-rid-of-this” boxes of mementoes. They’ve been moved to other corners of our lives while every inch of the garage has been turned into a honey house, hive repair shop and storage for jars, lids, sugar and the other evidence of a busy beekeeping business.
I no longer dream of that sports car that came with my now-long-gone mid-life crisis. Now I watch flatbed trucks on the street and wonder how they would handle in a muddy farmer’s field. I idly wonder when we are going to make the transition from hand-bombing hives to palletized hives moved with a forklift. Amanda wants to buy a new car so that we can retire the truck from commuter duty and turn it into a permanent bee truck. The pungent smell of smoked burlap has permeated the seats, and the back of the truck is a constant scouting location for wasps and bees in search of honey drips.
My wardrobe is making the transition from three-button pinstripe suits and long-sleeve shirts to beige dockers and button-down cotton short-sleeves, most of which are stained with propolis and wax or nicked by hive tools.
You can see how this is going. No, an intervention is not necessary. We’re having the fun of our lives.