Traverse Classics: Lessons in Beekeeping

Now, all we had to do was move the bees and they’d be ours. We had no bee experience nor bonafide bee equipment, but we did have two good sets of foul-weather gear for sailing. So, on a warm June evening, we zipped, clipped and Velcroed ourselves into red and yellow rainsuits. Then we hitched a semi-legal trailer to our Jeep, and set out to meet our tiny livestock.

At the farm, we found the bees about a half-mile down a two-track in a grove of trees, not far from honeysuckle and raspberries. The monk-man must have been a bit of an artist because the hives were painted beautifully—pastel blue, green and purple. Some of my favorite colors.

We arrived at dusk, which seemed like a good time to move bees. They would all be home, docile, we figured, and we wouldn’t leave anyone behind. Turns out that was only partially true. They were all home, but at dusk they didn’t have anything better to do than defend themselves against a couple of brightly colored intruders.

We hadn’t been there more than a few minutes when I felt bee feet on my shin, inside my jeans. As my husband tells it, I began to do a squirmy walk that evolved into an all-out flailing dance.

Meanwhile, he calmly counseled me to “step away from the hives” and remove my pants, with the authority of the bee police. I tried to obey but before I could, the shin-crawler stung me while another bee zapped my finger. We fled to the Jeep and abandoned the mission. One thing was clear—we needed help.

In nine years of living Up North I’d seen plenty of evidence of bees: hives in fields, hives on truck beds, local honey products. Now I needed the experts who managed all that bee business. Later that week, I stopped at a pole barn on M-72 where I’d seen a black and yellow bee bus.

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