I started keeping beehives in our back yard last summer. I began with two, thinking if I had problems with one, the other would act as a backup. Since I am a Star Trek nerd I named them after the two planets of the Romulan homeworld — Romulus and Remus — simply because I thought it would be fun. Beekeepers often number their hives to track production. Who’s to say I couldn’t replace numbers with Star Trek planets? Besides, if anyone didn’t get it, I’d just tell them they were named after the mythical founders of Rome. Perhaps not much less nerdy, but probably more recognizable.
I had access to a respected local veteran beekeeper as a mentor. I’ll call him “Master Jack”. He’s been beekeeping since 1953 and was willing to answer any of my questions by phone and would often make stops by my house to see how things were going. I felt with Master Jack’s help I would be okay. And I wasn’t wrong. Each hive grew strong and gave me ample opportunities to learn to inspect hives, light my smoker, and harvest honey. Between the two hives we harvested 60 pounds of that sweet treat. And I only got stung three times the entire summer. I thought I was doing pretty good.
Unfortunately, due to the long and bitter cold, neither of my colonies survived the recent winter, so I had to buy new bees. My local bee-supplier makes a couple of runs to Georgia about this time every year to restock needy beekeepers in my area. I decided to double the number of hives I kept this year to a total of four. I figured that would at least double my honey harvest if not more since all four hives would start out with frames that already had wax and honey in them (left over from the winter).
Well, this last Saturday was the day to pick up the bees. My wife and I installed them the same evening, fearing the next few days were going to be windy with rain per the weather report.
We got the packages back home and into their respective hives without a hitch. My wife wanted to take a more active role with the hives this year, so we got her some protective clothing, a hive tool, and she went at the whole process like she was born to it. It was going to be a good year. I could just feel it. Granted, now there was no way I could blame naming the hives on the founders of Rome because the two additional hives were clearly Star Trek nerd-motivated. Whether it is more appropriate to call us Trekkers or Trekkies is of little consequence. We are inventing our own thing — beetrekking! We now have Vulcan and Kronos hives (yes, I also spelled it “Qo’noS” for you folks who count yourselves part of the orthodoxy).
My optimism took a slight dip yesterday when my wife and I got into the hives to put in some syrup feeders and remove the package boxes. Everything ran smoothly at first. We pulled all the package boxes out, put in the jar of sugar syrup, and closed them up.
Until my wife messed everything up by saying “they seem to be clogging up at the entrance. Should we adjust the entrance reducers?”
For non-beekeepers, an entrance reducer is just a piece of wood that accommodates a couple of small cut spaces in it. It is placed in the entrance of a hive to limit accessibility primarily when it is just starting or during the winter. Reducing accessibility to the hive makes it easier for the bees to defend against marauders (wasps, bees from other hives, etc.) Last year I kept the reducers on the small space for a week or two, rotated it to the medium space for a couple of days, then removed the reducer altogether, giving free-range to the forager bees to enter and leave effectively.
I should have called Master Jack to see if rotating the reducer to the medium space and accommodate bottlenecking was an appropriate decision this early in the game. Instead, I tried to show off in front of my wife by making the decision on my own. That’ll learn me.
I rotated the reducer on Romulus. No problem. Remus. No problem. But if any of you know anything about Klingon’s it should come to no surprise that as soon as I rotated the reducer on Kronos (the Klingon homeworld, duh) I got stung on the tip of my finger.
“Son of a BITCH!” I hissed, which is my code for “I just got stung”.
“Are you okay?” my wife asked sincerely.
“Might as well get the first sting out of the way early in the season,” I feigned confidence with a bold declaration as I scraped the stinger away. I then asked my wife to finish rotating the reducer on the last hive, Vulcan, thinking that the alarm pheromone of the first sting may earn me another.
When she was done, we started packing up our bee tools into our tool box. I folded my wife’s gloves after she handed them to me and placed them in the toolbox, pushing them down to fit.
“Son of a BITCH!” I yelled this time. I had accidentally left the box open during our hive chore and at least one bee had gotten into it. Sting #2 — palm of the hand.
“Unbelievable,” I shook my head, disgusted in my own amateur mistakes. “Let’s get out of here.” I took my protective jacket off and handed it to my wife who was offering to take it.
I wanted to get a photo of the hives because I planned on using it for a blog about getting stung twice in one day. I stood well back from them, not wanting to give them a reason to defend and snapped the picture. That’s when she head-butted me.
Not my wife. The third bee.
Honeybee’s die after they sting, so they will usually give you a little head-butt to let you know they are thinking about stinging you. It’s a way for them to tell you to go away before they have to sacrifice their lives. Usually, just walking briskly away from the hive will satisfy them to leave you alone. Well, not this one. She was committed. I walked away from the hives and across the yard. She followed, buzzing around my head and head-butting me. I walked further. She kept following. I could tell by her buzz, there was no distance I could walk that would convince her I was harmless. I plugged my nose, clenched my eyes and waited for the heat.
“Son of a BITCH!” I yelled. Right on the eyebrow. And since I don’t have a code for “I just got stung a third time” I went ahead and threw in a couple of other fancy expletives I would never say in front of my aging mother.
So, last year I get three stings all season. The first day of this year, I get three in one shot.
I’m sure there was something I was doing to cause it, but I can’t help suspecting it might also be that we named one of the hives after the Klingon homeworld. One was definitely from that hive and I would not be surprised if the other two were from there as well. Klingons are notorious for their aggressive behavior and warlike demeanor. And now I have three stings to prove it.
But they say if you can’t beat them; join them. I just can’t decide which one-eyed Klingon I should be — Martok, General Chang, or that commandant from the penal colony on Rura Penthe.
That one’s for you to decide, Trek fans.