5.13.2011

Catch Some Local Girls: They're Wild and Free

Charlie's hive traps seemed to be compelling only to the dine-and-dashers. For about a month he noticed ten to thirty bees dropping by, checking it out, but not making the commitment to move in. They didn't want to sign the lease.

After he got the two packaged hives and the Alameda bees, he took the bigger pink trap down. Nobody in San Francisco has had success with hive traps, especially not in the foggy side of town. With two store-bought hives and one wild catch, he's already earned his "A" in beekeeping. Besides, there's only so many times you show a prospective tenant the apartment before you stop taking their calls.

He pushed the blue hive trap over to the low-rent side of the stand, the windy side, and ignored it. "See?" he thought. "I've got real bees living here. I don't need your pity visits."

When he checked on the Giants, the Slackers, and the Alameda Girls, that blue hive trap box got a sneer. Teasing girls aren't welcome anywhere. He wanted someone willing to settle down, to give up the wild life and put down some roots.

You're supposed to check your hives after two weeks to make sure you can see eggs. The queen needs to prove she's doing her job.

Charlie suited up and pulled the roof off the Slacker hive first. It took no time to find the queen. On the packaged bees, the queen has a white dot on her back. Even without the dot, she's pregnant and huge. As a big, beautiful woman, she's hard to miss.

He watched her drop her ass end into a honeycomb cell, deposit a rice grain-looking baby, situate herself at the next cell, and repeat .

Proud of his girls, he put the roof back on. Topless, they quickly lose heat. They get annoyed, they slow down, and if cold for too long, they'll die.

More carefully, he opened up the Giants hive. Those Giants don't do anything half-assed, and neither does their queen. She was squatting and giving birth like a professional, dropping clear rice grain babies into cells like Lincecum pitching scoreless balls.

Onto the Alameda Girls. How different would natural childbirth be for a bee? Even without a white dot she was hard to miss. Energetically crouching and spewing, she was giving the Giants' queen strong competition for Mother of the Year.


All three queens were alive, accepted by their hives, and squirting out kids. Worker bees were flying in from the park with leg sacs filled with loads of pollen. Unlike in his previous career in law enforcement, these citizens followed the rules without fear of penalty. The less he made his presence known, the better they did their work. There are so many stories about new beekeepers: the queen couldn't mate and wasn't laying eggs, the queen wasn't accepted by the colony and therefore killed, or the beekeeper himself killed the queen while putting the roof back on.

Charlie felt pretty smug until he spied the blue box at the end of the stand. The usual few bees hovered around the entrance. Don't move in, he thought. See what I care. I've got accomplished, upmarket bees from such exotic places as Orland and Alameda, and unlike you moochers, they like it here.


He lifted the roof to put more lemongrass oil in, hoping to attract a better class of bees. Right there, in the middle of the trap, was a football-sized clump of bees. A couple of bees flew out and up toward him, bumping his veil Kamikaze-style. It freaked him out enough that he dropped the roof, right down on top of the new tenants; something a new beekeeper would do.


Lifting the lid a second, more careful time, he removed the lemongrass oil and added frames to make this box into a real hive. In the process, more and more bees bumped his bonnet, acting assertive and bossy as if to tell him to hurry up and get out of here. When you're wild, you need to be spunky to survive. And with beekeeping, it's all about survival.

Even on the windy, foggy side of the city, you get lucky sometimes.