Last year, my two beehives succumbed to a pesticide kill. It was a sad moment when I found hundreds of dead bees, maybe thousands, outside the hive, their proboscis, or bee tongues, hanging out of their wee, little heads.
The county bee inspector came and shook his head. He gave me a stack of flyers to pass out to neighbors warning of the indiscriminate use of insecticide.
What to do...
Order new bees.
I couldn't give up the fascinating rendezvous with one of nature's tiniest, most important, and vulnerable creatures--one we are so dependent on, but seem to ignore the possible impact of their loss in years to come.
A new package of bees comes with a caged queen. This practice is so bees get used to their new queen's pheromones--after days of her presence, they adjust and accept her reign. Upon receiving the package and caged queen, it is my job to remove the plug and replace it with candy. The bees are supposed to dig away at the candy until the passage is opened for the queen to exit and become a country club member of the hive, and to start laying eggs, which is critical to the life of a hive. The worker-bee life span can be as short as six weeks. It's critical the colony is in a perpetual state of reproduction.
On the third day, the queen was still caged. The workers had made progress but it was time to let her out. With gloved hands and beekeeper protection, I held the cage and pried at the plug. When it came free, I waited and watched. If the character trait shy can be applied to queen bees, then my queen was shy. She held back, she waited. Did she wonder?
The bees seemed to be as reticent as her. They moved close, backed away, skirted around, moved in again. A waiting game. I wanted to hold on, to keep watching, but I needed to place the cage in the hive and let her emerge without me. I needed to replace the lid, close it down, and let them be.
It is this very fascination with nature that inspires us to be a part of its workings, yet it's often the thing we forget about nature: the lesser interference, the greater odds of success, but it seems to be against our nature. We feel the need to meddle, manipulate, and that our creations are superior. And perhaps a few of them---are.
Beekeeping is a my reminder of nature's perfections and the need to respect and resist interfering.