Friday. Back in January, I had 2 hives and felt I was ready to set up another 2, so I sent in an order to Adam Fuller at A&Z Apiaries for two bee "packages". A bee package is a small box containing a hundred or so worker bees, and a new queen in a tiny cage, attached inside, as well as a can of sugar syrup. On a certain date in the spring, Adam puts a notice on his website that the bees have arrived at his apiary, trucked over from Georgia, and that you and everyone else who ordered bees need to get over there asap to pick your order up. You take them home and install them in their new home: an empty hive that you have prepared for them [though when I went through this process last June, it was not nearly this simple - another one of my bee adventures!] But after this week, I was seriously reconsidering whether I wanted any more, and now suddenly I had 3 hives. So I would end up with 5! Did I really want to do this? I had to decide now because the bees I ordered were due to arrive in May, and I needed to get two more empty bee hive boxes, and I had to do it soon.
So After a lot of thought, I decided to go ahead with the extra 2 hives. This meant I had to drive up to Hampton to A&Z Apiaries, to buy two more hives from Adam. Very frustrating as I had got way behind on other Yellow House Farm chores this week with all that effort on the bees, and I couldn't really afford 3 hours away from the farm. But which ever way I looked at it, it couldn't be helped. "At least I could get Adam to answer all my questions", I thought, rather than trying to pin him down by phone. So at 9:30, after seedlings watered and cared for, cats fed, snack packed, Golf hatchback seats down, GPS installed, a call to Adam to confirm he would be there and did indeed have hives to sell, I was ready to go.
I arrived an hour later, and pulled up in front of the building, which looks like a large shed or barn in the back of Adam's house, woods encroaching from all sides. When I walked in, to my surprise, I was confronted by a huge stack of bee packages and a few loose bees flying around. Was it bee delivery day? I didn't know anything about this. Adam had not mentioned it. Sure enough, there was Adam in a side office, surrounded by shelves of beautifully carved beeswax flowers and candles and jars of A&Z Apiary honey, seated behind his table, and a line of people waiting to pay him for their orders, and I had to wait! Darn! No way would he have have time for my questions! [This was not my bee order, by the way. Mine were coming in May or June.]
I couldn't help thinking about my conversation with Lori and Steve the other day (some people I know in the world of 3 Principles Therapy). I had been describing my past week of hard work with the bees, and they were looking at me in shock and amazement that someone would actually choose to do something like this. I mentioned that I had been learning the ropes by attending Bee School in the winter. "Bee School?? Really? Must be a rather small class", Lori laughed. "No, not at all!" I told her, "It is packed! There is a lot of interest! Very popular!" "Really??" she said in surprise. And the same was true here. There were hundreds of bee packages and people were turning up in a constant stream, a lot of activity with people coming and going, and Adam and his assistants bustling around trying to help everyone. I've seen Adam on his bee delivery days when I got my last bee packages. He is in his element, happy as a clam, chatting with each person while digging their order forms out of the stack, getting them to sign it, and then sending them to the other room to collect their bees, and any equipment they might need. Adam never needs a microphone when he gives his talks at the bee school as his natural volume is about 20 decibels louder than the average person, which is great in a lecture hall, but in that confined space was quite overpowering!
"HOW YOU DOING SIR?.... THREE PACKAGES? AND YOUR NAME? OK HERE IT IS.... AND YOU'VE ALREADY PAID? YUP, I SEE YOU HAVE, AND DO YOU NEED A RECEIPT?....JUST SIGN YOUR NAME THERE...THANK YOU VERY MUCH!"
When it was my turn, I paid for my two hives, or "EQUIPMENT" as Adam put it, got my receipt, "AND YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, AND I HAVE FIVE CUSTOMERS WAITING..." he laughed. Sure enough, there were customers lined up out the door. We agreed that I would wait until there were not so many people before I put my questions to him. So while loose bees buzzed around, I waited. Then I quickly presented my questions:
"So, what happens if I did accidentally move the original queens over to the new hives by mistake, what is going to happen now and how would I know?"
"YOU'LL KNOW BECAUSE YOUR WORKERS ARE GOING TO START LAYING A BUNCH MORE QUEEN CELLS! BUT YOU'VE GOT TO JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE NOW. JUST LET THEM GET ON WITH IT. YOU'VE DONE WHAT YOU COULD AND NOW YOU NEED TO LEAVE THEM TO SORT IT ALL OUT. LET THEM FIGURE IT OUT!"
That suits me perfectly. Just what I wanted to hear. "And what about the queen cells I moved into the new hive. Is it alright that I moved as many as ten? What is going to happen now?"
"WELL, THEY ARE GOING TO JUST FIGHT IT OUT UNTIL THERE IS ONE WINNER"
Oh wow, I thought, envisioning an unseen battle going on out there in a hive with nobody there to see it. "And how is the female that's the winner going to mate with drones? Is she going to do a mating flight?"
"YEP, THAT'S IT. SHE'S GOING TO FLY OFF, MATE WITH DRONES AND THEN RETURN TO THE HIVE. ... OK, AND NOW I NEED TO HELP THIS NEXT CUSTOMER ...." as people started to file in again.
I thanked him and said that was pretty much it, and left, but only after finding out how I could get my next two queens (in my next order) marked so I could have an easier time finding them. You can order "marked" queens, which means, they paint a little blob on the thorax of the queen before you pick them up, and this makes it easier to spot them among all the thousands of bees. Wish I had thought of getting marked queens the first time round. It was very nice of him to be so helpful, answering all my questions when he was so busy. Nice guy!
Adam's assistant, a large, burly man with a bushy grey beard, had been stacking my "EQUIPMENT" (i.e., 4 hive boxes and 4 supers for honey - to make up 2 hives) into the back of my car. Another hour (after a pit stop and snack) and I was home again.