6.30.2011

Buying Italians


Bees get busy when the sun comes out

It’s way past package bee season but when you get the itch for more bees, buying packages is a quick and dirty solution. A package contains a mated queen, bred for honey production, and three pounds of random bees. They don’t know each other like a nuc or a swarm, but they’ll figure it out.

On the bee source forum, Powell Apiaries in Orland advertised package bees for sale. Why? Is it an old ad? It’s so late in the season but it wouldn’t hurt to call.

“Hello?” a soft voice answers, sounding completely unlike a big professional business.
“Is this Powell Apiaries?”
“Yep.”
“Do you have bee packages left?”
“No. I’m done for the season.”
“I’m from San Francisco. Our association chipped in and bought a bunch of packages from somewhere in Orland. Did we get our bees from you?”
“Doesn’t sound familiar.”
“Thanks for your time, then.”
“Well, hold on. How many you want? I’ve got the last of my packages going out in a couple of days. I always make a hundred extra.”
“A hundred extra?”
“What do you want? Fifty?”
“Fifty? How about two? I’m just a hobbyist.”
“I could give you two. They’re Italians.”
“I don’t have Italians.”
“Italians are the best.”
“So my Italian uncle tells me. How much?”
“Oh, how about sixty a piece. How’s that?”
We paid $70 each with the SF Beekeepers Association group discount. They usually go for $95. “That’s good,” Charlie said, and picked them up the next day. With this kind of a deal, waiting is torture. Besides, even people with soft voices can change their minds.

Italians
It was unusually sunny in our usually foggy side of the city when we brought the new girls home. They’d been in their packages for three days so Charlie set them free right away. They seemed like good, gentle girls, more intent on getting down to bee business rather than pissed off about being in a box for three days. Not one felt the need to dive-bomb or give a warning bump, even though they’d been trapped in a tiny box with a strange woman for 72 hours.

That same sunny evening, we came across one of our tenants. This tenant has the garage closest to the intersection. Instead of parking inside his garage, he prefers to park his black, weeks-old, high-end BMW in front of his driveway. “Too much trouble,” he says, “to get out and open the door first. You ever thought about getting automatic garage door openers for these old, heavy garage doors?”

“Probably not,” we say.
“Hey, you know what this yellow stuff is all over my car? Look,” he said, pointing to the polka-dotted, bright yellow tic-tac sized debris covering his metal symbol of red-blooded manliness.
“No.”
“I can’t figure it out. I thought it was pollen blowing from across the park, but it reeks. It really stinks. Like shit.”
“We have no idea,” we said, and quickly left.

 Safely inside our apartment, we wondered aloud “Could that stinky shit have something to do with the girls on the roof? It looks like the same yellow dots covering the top of the hives.”

The next time we were near a beekeeper, we asked, “Do bees shit a lot?”
“They do,” he said, “right when you bring them home from a package. They’ve been cooped up for three or four days. They don’t like to mess their colony so they hold it.”
“Right when you put them in a hive box, they come roaring out ‘cause they have to take a crap?”
“Oh, yeah.”

That makes sense, and means we have to come clean and tell our tenant his hot, black beemer is full of Italian shit. We don’t have to, but we don’t have jobs or savings or much of anything besides our good word. If you don’t do what you’d want done to you, you end up paranoid and overly suspicious, and that’s just too much work when you’re unemployed.

“At least I know what it is,” the tenant said. “It was driving me crazy.” And, it turns out, his dad was once a beekeeper so he’s sympathetic.

“We’ll move the hives toward the other end of the roof,” we told him. “It might help if they aren’t right above where you park.”
“Don’t move them too far too fast or you’ll freak them out,” he said, now more worried about our bees than his bootylicious BMW. “That’s what my dad says.”
“Good to know,” we said, checking ourselves as to why we thought he’d have quite a different response.