Saturday, March 28, 2009

Will she or won't she?

My grandfather, a cattle rancher, used to let a beekeeper put boxes on his land and one day my family was out riding around and a bee got caught in my hair. I was fifteen or so, definitely too old to be undone by a bee. But I was undone by this bee. It was buzzing in my ear and wildly thrashing to get free of the hair and I began to cry, shaking my head and batting at it and kicking my horse. I behaved about as rationally as the bee; my parents must have been so proud. Eventually the poor bee stung me on the scalp and died. I was very aggrieved because my family seemed to find my panic amusing and uncool.

That was my last close encounter with a bee and it seems doubtful that I'm cut out to be a beekeeper. But I recently read Fruitless Fall*, a beautiful, troubling book about the mysterious decline in the honeybee population and it inspired me to sign up for a free amateur beekeeping seminar. That's today. I like the idea of of playing some tiny role in helping the bees and I like the idea of suburban hives. Good for the bees, good for the fruit trees, good for honey. Plus, the Obamas are doing it.

But liking the idea of something is very different from liking the thing itself, and I remain extremely wary of Apis mellifera. There's the swarming, the tiny, vibrating, hairy bodies, the stinging. I'm going to try to see the beauty and the mystery and master my fear, become an Earth Mother and wipe the knowing smirks of my parents' faces. I'm giving it my all. Will report back.

*highly recommend even if you don't think you're interested in bees as it is incredibly well written and you will soon realize that you are actually very interested in bees.


  1. My mother was deathly allergic to bees. I have never been stung. I am therefore too anxiety ridden to become a beekeeper but applaud you for going to learn about it! Can't wait to hear more about how it goes.

  2. do you ever just sit around and do nothing, thinking empty thoughts?
    it appears not. what a woman.
    too bad there are no real new lands to discover any more.

  3. My mom is getting bees, too! I am so jealous of yous guys. Maybe someday. You have to keep us all updated, because I have to admit a little fear and trepidation about the stinging.

  4. ooh. i so want bees! i wonder how they'd do at this altitude? (7500 feet)

    also wonder if there's enough nectar to keep them happy? california this ain't.

    guess i'll be googling all that tomorrow...

  5. To Helltoupee,

    The family ranch was in Evanston Wyoming---about 7000 feet I believe. Great for bees in the summer. THink the beekeeper moved them elsewhere in the winter. Maybe you could have shared custody with someone in a warmer winter climate.

    Tipsy Mom

  6. I know this comment is late to the party, but there may be others like me, who have just discovered you and are reading the old posts.

    My grandfather kept bees in Canada. He drove to California every spring and bought a load (hive? I have no idea; I was 6) to drive back to Canada. But he raised enough to sell the honey after all the family was supplied. And it gave them a holiday every year.