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April 28, 2014: The Bee Launching: Spring Rite of Passage

There are certain things around here that mark the onset of spring. One is the roof of my writer’s cabin finally being free of snow. Another is the horse pen’s finally being dry and clean. Still another is the sun’s being over the distant mountains by 8 a.m. And yet another is the return of the Sandhill cranes and geese.

In my mind, though, the most significant sign of spring is the launching of the bees. The process goes like this: We drive to the bee pickup place. We bring them home. We reassemble the two disassembled hives in the bee area. We set up the hives, making sure to put sugar in troughs, and sticks in the troughs, so that the bees don’t drown. We don gear, gloves and hat included. We first shake the bees out of the one box, and then release the queen out of her matchbook-sized box, then repeat this process. I say we because each year, the distribution of tasks vary. Pete’s clearly the one in charge, but I do give an assist.

It’s spring the minute the bees enter their new home. Some don’t do this immediately. Rather, some buzz around a bit before landing. And others cling to Pete and me. This year, I stood close by, taking photos and making videos. Some of the bees landed on me, and were crawling about. I breathed deeply, remained calm, and when Pete was done, slowly walked with him back up to the main cabin.

We brushed a few straggler bees off of one another before entering the house. I asked Pete if these stragglers would find their way home, and was told no, that they would not know how to get back to the hive. Rather, they’d die. Hearing this made me feel sad. It hardly seemed fair that these bees, at the conclusion of a lengthy journey (they’d just come here from California) would die so close to their final destination. This was not as sad the time in which we released them in far colder weather. Pete opened the boxes, and some flew up, hit the cold air, and immediately dropped to the ground, dead.

I hope that bee attrition is low this year. I do feel good about this year’s crop. It has the feel of a good year. It’s been sunny and warm, and in all likelihood it will remain this way. The bees will do well and we’ll end up getting plenty of honey.

Next: 118. 4/29/14: Dog Training: Disaster Practice