I awoke excited about the day. The bees were in this morning and I was to pick them up soon: my first package of bees! I bought them from a local supplier and they had spent the night traveling the four hours from their previous home to the pick-up location. Already they were “my girls”. The pick-up was uneventful, the way they should be, but I had to introduce my girls to their new home, a hive that I had built by hand and placed in the large backyard of my home. The fifteen minute ride home, bees in the backseat, was filled with even more excitement both from the backseat and the front.
Readying my tools for the introduction, I brought out the food that I had mixed up the night before (sugar water in short). Setting the bees down next to the hive, I removed four or five frames from the hive and set them aside. I then pulled the small feeding can from the package and grabbed the queen cage putting it in my pocket to keep the queen inside warm and replacing the can with a small cover to keep most of the bees in the package. A few bees flew out and the package was hurriedly coming to life. I thumped the package lightly down to shake the bees to the bottom of the package and then turned the package over the hive dumping thousands of bees into (hopefully) their new home. I hung the queen cage on a frame a bit off to the side, set the few frames taken out back in, set the feeder and the top on and then pulled up a chair and poured some coffee. My work was done for the time being.
The entire event was filled with child-like excitement, hope, and worry, not lasting for more than ten minutes or so. I felt the responsibility of thousands of lives begin to weigh down on me. I watched as bees flurried about coming in and out of the hive. I heard the excitement around and in the hive itself. I watched as something that I had built from a living thing came to life in a whole different way. I could not help wondering if the new hive was busily making the place its new home much in the same way a family might make a new house theirs. I couldn’t help wondering if they would be safe, be warm, secure in their new surroundings. I had readied the hive and our ½ acre of yard for the bees to the best of my ability. I had looked forward to this day for the months that I had waited for the package to come. I was nervously ecstatic, I was unbearably happy; I was fifty years old!
I was fifty years old with the glee of a small child. I have owned a small business, have a career and held a job my whole life and yet these bees were one of the most exciting events that I could remember. I must admit that the reason for getting bees in the first place was that I had found an old honey extractor from the 1920’s for a reasonable price and simply thought it to be an interesting piece of equipment. But what is a honey extractor without bees to make honey? The following months of avid reading about bees and beekeeping hurriedly changed my attitude: I was taking on the responsibility of a society of animals.
The first day of being a beekeeper and I already owed the bugs a nod of gratitude! The day that I dumped the package into the hive I realized that the bees were much more than honey or even pollination of the garden, but they were the realization of a greater thing, a greater idea, a symbol of an ideal life. The bees reminded me that I was responsible for myself and in being responsible for myself, I was responsible for them. There are not many better lessons to learn, and what better way to learn such lessons than from a box of bugs!