|Bee afraid, very afraid.....|
Unperturbed, we strode up to the hive and decided to light the smoker. Two million struck matches later, the smoker wasn't smoking and the rain was coming on. 'Oh let's just get a look at them anyway,' I breezed, lifting off the top of the hive and the supers beneath.
Holy effing God.
I've never SEEN so many bees. And they were very pissed off at someone taking their roof off. They buzzed around our heads angrily and then I realised that my my skinny-jean clad groin was totally VIBRATING with angry honey bees.
Then I started to get stung. On a place that you don't want stung. Giving new meaning to the expression 'bee stung lips'. I hopped back a suitable distance and started brushing them off.
'Holy suffering mother of God!' and other expletives of a more colourful nature were erupting from behind my veil.
'Hiya mum!' a bright little voice called over the wall.
Sonshine was now out of school and watching me hopping about with a humming fanny, swearing my head off as the little blighters registered their fury at our intrusion.
'Jesus SAKES Sonshine, get AWAY from here - the bees are furious!' I shouted angrily.
'There's nothing up here mum', he assured me from his higher vantage point on the nearby road. 'They do all seem to be on your, erm, on your jeans,' he pointed helpfully.
I called over to the intrepid Nyree, telling her that I would shout instructions from a safer distance. She nodded and gave me the thumbs up.
'Take out the first frame and make sure the queen isn't on it. If she is, knock her back into the hive' I called. Nyree lifted out the first frame and started to inspect it for signs of viability.
'Where will I put it?' she called.
We didn't have a fancy storage box for it like the Ayrshire keepers, 'lie it next to the hive. Carefully!'
She duly did so and continued on to the next frame.
'I can see the queen, called Nyree'
Brilliant, that meant we still had a viable hive. Then the unthinkable happened. Nyree DROPPED the frame and the bees rose up, en masse like a terrifying dark cloud from a Hitchcock film, or an episode of David Attenborough's Life on Earth.
Echoing the classic scene in Young Frankenstein I shouted, as calmly as I could 'Put the frames back! PUT THE FRAMES BACK!!! We'll come back another day when it's not so damp. And we can get the damned smoker to work.' The bees sank down again and I gingerly returned to the hive to help lift the supers on and replaced the lid. Which I thought was VERY brave of me.
We walked smartly to the edge of the clearing where the hive was, brushing irate bees off each other's backs and armpits.
I gingerly knocked them off my crotch. No more stings there, thank you very much.
We put the bee suits back in the storage cupboard and headed down to the car
'Well, that went very well,' said Nyree. I scanned her face for signs of irony, but there were none.
I had a fanny that was stung to bits, we had NO idea whether the queen had fallen on to the grass after the frame fell. The bees had shown us in no uncertain terms that THEY were the boss.
Actually, it HAD been really good fun.
This week the weather has been terrible. Winds so strong that they have blown over vans, demolished trees and sent slates crashing to the pavements like lethal weapons. Then we had hailstones that battered off the windows like spiteful fairy missiles; and rain. Endless bloody rain.
Monica phoned on Wednesday morning: 'The bees. There's been a disaster with the bees. The winds have knocked over the hive and there are dead bees everywhere.'
My heart twisted and sank. 'I've put everything back,' she continued. But there's not a lot of activity'.
Today is the first reasonably dry day since the bees were hit by the wind. Mike and I went up to the hivw, full of trepidation. Again we couldn't get the smoker to work. 'I don't think we'll need it,' he said solomnly. This time my nethers were protected by Tartarus's motorbike waterproofs. I roughly the size and shape of Belgium, but I didn't care. My heart was in my welly boots as we approached the utterly silent hive.
Dead bees lay on the threshold - bees usually carry their dead comrades away from the hive to protect the integrity of the hive. That wasn't a good sign.
'Are you ready?' asked Mike
He lifted off the lid and the supers....and there sat several hundred absolutely furious honey bees. I've never been so happy to be surrounded by angry, buzzing bodies.
'Right, let's put it back together, ' said Mike swiftly. 'We need the smoker to look at them more closely.'
As we walked away, a tiny bee tried to sting me through my leather glove. I carefully picked her off and checked that her sting was intact before flicking her off. 'You don't die today, sweetheart. Not today.'
Our hearts were buzzing as loudly as the bees as we returned to the car. A happy ending? No, not quite
Now the bad news. We've got to get them back off the island.......