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the new tenants

We now have a colony of bees living next to our bathroom window. I put them up there this evening. We purchased a 'nuc,' which is to say a pre-started colony with a queen and several frames of brood and workers, from an apiary just down the road in Billerica. For months we've been preparing for the bees: small things like buying the tools (which Leah handled) and some big things like painting one side of the house, assembling a beehive, and designing a platform to put it ten feet off the ground and away from the kids (all Dan). You'd think all that would have psyched me up for the idea, but I drove to Billerica this evening in abject terror. I'm going to put bees in the car? I thought to myself. BEES in the CAR???

To distract myself I turned on the local college radio station. It was some kind of kids' programming, and the song that was playing, this is no joke, the song on the radio went: "It's just you and me, bumble bee. Just you and me. Buzzzzzzzzzzz."

I found the apiary on a winding farm road, after calling Dan twice to help me with directions. Not being able to follow printed directions is typical of me in panic mode. But I finally found the place, and I gave the woman my name, and two minutes later there were bees in my car. BEES in my CAR.

Okay, so the bees were in a box sealed with screws, and the box was in a bee-proof bag, and the spanish dude who put it in my car did it with his bare hands. But still. The box was buzzing.

I got home, opened the trunk of the car, and listened to the buzzing. It sounded like A LOT of bees.

I put on my hazmat-looking suit, lit my smoker, and cut open the bag. Dan showed me how to use the drill to unscrew the lid. Some bees were already flying out, so Dan quickly hopped away and stood watching from the vantage point of the porch. I used the drill and took the lid off the box.

Dear Lord there were so many flipping bees in there.

It took me at least three minutes just to get the first frame out of the nuc. I've read a lot about bees this past year, but the people who raise bees and write about bees are pretty used to bees. They do not find it particularly terrifying to stick a crowbar in a box of bees and pry out a big sheet of bees covered in bees. I, on the other hand, find this runs against my instinct of self-preservation. Even in my giant suit and canvas gloves I did not want to put my hands on bees. But it was go forward or wait for the bees to get more mad, so I prayed hard and extracted the first frame. I took it up the ladder and into the hive, and then the other four frames came easier. Meanwhile my smoker went out, and I forgot my bee brush and Dan had to throw it to me from inside the house. Then I tried to shake the extra bees out of the box into the hive and they just flew everywhere. There I was with bees crawling all over me, the air thick with bees, and I had the same thought I had once when I was getting ready to jump out of an airplane. Am I insane? Is this a really bad idea?

Dan yelled from the porch, "Do you see the queen?"

I see the last few months of my life flashing before my eyes, but NO I do not see the queen. I hope she's in there because I'm closing the lid.

The ideal outcome of this project would be the bees stay up high, don't bother the kids, and give us honey. There are many less ideal outcomes I can imagine, but I'm trying not to focus on them right now. Right now I'm going to leave them alone and give them time to move into their new home. In a few days I'll check again to see how they're doing. Maybe the adrenaline will wear off by then.


You folks are brave. Bees really freak out my kids. No matter how many reassurances we give them, about all the good bees do and how they'll only bother us if we bother them.

I'm Sorry. Every time you mention "Bees in the Car," I think about "We've got snakes on a plane" from an otherwise lamentable movie, whose only redeeming feature was Samuel L. Jackson.

That said, if Samuel L were to say, "We've got Bees in the Car" there would probably be some really colorful language interspersed.

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