Friday, May 27, 2011
Almost all the bees in a hive are female, and only one of them, the queen, is sexually mature. These two hives came from Vermont. So most of the occupants aren't just immature females, they're liberal immature females consumed by righteous anger who don't shave their armpits. Every fall they evict all the males to starve and freeze. Sometimes they kill their queen and commit mass suicide. Sometimes half of them just up and leave. On their best days, they ignore me. Sometimes, for no discernible reason, they come boiling out on a mission to inflict pain. More than once my neighbors have seen me running around the yard screaming like a little Japanese girl being chased by Godzilla.
The advantage of pain-based training is that the learning curve is steep. The Department of education should station liberal Vermont girls with armpits that make them look like they have Gary Busey in a headlock in every classroom, to stab kids who make mistakes with little syringes of burning venom. Those delinquents would be ready for Princeton by about seventh grade. I don't know, maybe that's how China and India are churning out all those scientists and engineers while our kids major in 'Black Studies' and 'Gender Issues'.
Anyway, my experience with these hives combined with a careful reading of Winnie the Pooh has convinced me that bears are the predators that most of their defenses have evolved in response to. Anything that reminds them of bears sets them off, like "furry" clothing (sweaters or fleece), dark colors, rough handling and nocturnal prowling. When you mess with bees, wear smooth-textured fabric in light colors, do it close to high noon, and try to move like fluid.
If you open a hive at night, everybody's home and perturbed about being bothered after working hours. If you open a hive on a warm sunny day, most of the workers will be off gathering, and the nurse bees left at home will be relatively mellow. Even so, keep it brief. Bees are like snapping turtles and ex-wives: if you mess with them long enough, they'll find a way to get you. Plus, bee brood is sensitive to chills and dehydration. Instead of examining details in person, maybe take photographs that can be magnified and perused at your leisure.