2 May 2011

Hestia has hives.....

Does my bum look big in this?
Not the big red welts that appear after accidentally brushing against nettles as you skulk around the garden looking for a neighbour's pesky cat to soak with the water pistol as retaliation for pooping in my strawberries.  No - a hive, a proper BEE hive!!!

Technically, it's not my hive at all and it's not even in my garden, but to all intents and purposes, the bees that were delivered to the island yesterday were mine for a whole day.  And I think I luff them as much as I now seem to luff Kate Middleton.

At 10.45am yesterday morning, I stood under the frantic whirring of Jenny, the wind turbine, feeling that the rise and fall of the rotors' speed pretty much captured my own bursts of panic/calm as I waited in the increasing heat for the bees to be delivered.

Soon Tony and Elizabeth from the Ayrshire Beekeepers Association pulled up in their 4x4 and threw open the doors with a smile.  A couple of bees flew out of the car behind them.

'Oh the bees are loose!'  I stammered, trying not to sound too B-movie starlet (Bee movie?!)

'Oh they'll not hurt you, they just want out the window,' replied Tony blithely.  The escapee bees hovered around us, confusion etched on their tiny bee faces.

'What's their problem?' I asked, resisting the temptation to bat them away with my hand (wanting to appear cool and down with the bees, yanno).  'They are orientating themselves on the car park', said Tony shaking my hand.

'How will they find their way to where we are going to site the bees, I wondered.

'They won't find it - they're a long way from their home, that's them lost.'

I gazed at the tiny black bodies wending their wobbling flight down the car park, little wings beating  twenty to the dozen and realised with a pang that they were destined To Die.  Cold and alone.  In the car park.  I felt terribly sad for them and resolved to go back to the car park with a jam jar and catch them on Monday morning.

Soon we three were suited up and Tony and Elizabeth carried the sealed hive full of hot, angry and hungry bees up the path to their new home.  I didn't have trousers for my suit, so I had to borrow a very fetching pair of waterproofs from the Bute Produce chap and tuck the half suit inside it.

We looked like a nuclear accident, complete with angry humming.

Tony wasn't very happy with the location - too close to the road and not well enough protected by fencing or planting - but it was too late to do anything about a new location, we had to go ahead.

The entrance to the hive was unblocked and out they came in their hundreds.  Reader, it was absolutely fascinating to watch them orientating themselves to their new location.  I forgot to take pictures I was so engrossed.  Some bees sat on the entrance board and pointed their bottoms into the air, making sure that the pheromones for the hive were in the air to help the flyers get home.

And then we went away and left them for 3 hours......

It turns out that lovely churchgoing people are not easily appalled by shelves of books on paganism and Tarot, especially when I pointed out that I also had a shelf on Theology too.  Elizabeth fastened onto one of my books that she hadn't seen before, so I gave it to her.  Bee people and book people are generous souls.  And now I was both.

At half three we returned and from then until 5pm I was led through the care of bees and how to inspect the hive.  What a lot to remember!  Picking up the forms with the bees hanging all over them was a bit nerve-wracking to start off with because they crawl over your gloves and up your arms - but if you're well protected, you need not fear.  But these guys were docile and seem to be very nice natured.  Even when I sort of dropped on of the forms back into the hive and they all seemed to rise up into the air,  I wasn't frightened of them at all.

Last night I dreamed of bees.  Their humming seems to have replaced my tinnatus.  Either that or I might have wasps building a nest in the chimney....

This morning Sonshine and I walked up to the hive, using the road and stood right behind it.  There were loads of bees around, but none of them came near us.  The wall is very low when you are standing on the road side of it, and it would be easy to just jump over and sling a rock into the hive or kick it over.

Not that there are many people walk up and down that bit of road, it has to be said.

The best news of the day was when Tony and Elizabeth came back to mine for lunch and Tony declared 'why have we just put bees up there at Bute Produce when this place is perfect?'

I have tapped out the bad news to Tartarus in an e-mail:

'I want my own bees.'

Any of you got experience in beekeeping? Or chickens (they're coming this summer!)  Anything that I need to know about living with bees? Could it be more prickly than living with Tartarus?

Have a great Monday!

PS - yes, I've been up with the jam jar to the car park already today.


  1. Dave's dad keeps chickens, Is going to get bees, and is aim at self-sufficiency.

    This is his blog


  2. Aww Ali!!

    What an adventure, aren't bees great?
    My one and only adventure with bees was when I was about 12 and we went to visit my best friends hive on the Yorkshire moors..well her Dad's really. Standing in that suit watching the bees is both scary and fascinating...I totally know where you are coming from.

    I'm sure if you're sensible (and use your feminine guile)that Tartarus will agree to a hive...tempt him with honey and an abundant garden, preservation of the planet and our food sources. After all, you have the contacts now, and being informed is half the battle won.

    Good luck honey ;) (ha...honey...geddit?)

    S xx

  3. Ooh we have bees at work! Award winning bees! We only got them at the start of last year and their first crop of honey won prizes.

    I say this like I have anything to do with it - err, I've never actually been near the hive. Am a bit of a wuss and very impressed with your bravery at diving in amongst your bees.

    Make sure you tell them the news and gossip - it's meant to be lucky.

  4. Lovely post Ali, I've never thought about keeping bees, but you've written about them so nicely, you make it sound almost fun.
    We used to keep 6 chooks (chickens in NZ) and a paranoid duck. Loved the really fresh eggs, didn't enjoy mucking out the hutch.

    Question; why are they bringing the bees to Bute?

  5. How exciting for you, Ali!
    A couple of our friends have been beekeeping for about a year. We were out with them last night and they were telling us how they'd swarmed whilst we were on holiday so now they have two hives.
    I'd love chickens but I think we go on holiday too often and I don't think my 82 year old dad could cope in our absence. xxx

  6. We used to have bees at school - they lived at the bottom of the orchards, near the chickens, but they roamed far and wide and the school buildings always had a bee or three buzzing around in summer :)
    At the summer fete, you could always buy massive great jars of honey and it was really good :D
    I remember a bee decided to take a walk on my face once in chapel - couldn't do anything except stand very still while praying it wouldn't decide to seek pollen up my nose.

  7. And here's me, coming across to your blog to express my sympathy at your predicament! (I have hives at the mo - the itchy, lumpy, what-the-hell-am-I-allergic-to-NOW kind).

    This was a much calmer read and a pleasant distraction, so thank you!

    Do you follow Neil Gaiman on twitter? He's just been posting pictures of himself with bees in the last few days, although I don't think they're 'his' bees as such.

  8. Hi Ali, I love your blog!! My best friend from secondary school keeps bees and chickens, running her garden as a smallholding. This is her website/blog http://www.gruinard.org/
    We went to school across the water from you in Port Glasgow, but have both moved east to Ednburgh and West Lothian. It's a small world, one of my friends from college is the guidance teacher at the secondary school on IOB!

  9. I've never tried bees, but like all things interesting, I wouldn't mind a try. Chickens however, I can be of help with.
    Loved your post as usual.

  10. Oh good on you! So brave - I'd have been rubbish!

    I laughed so much at your rear comment!!

  11. Mrs Make Do - once you've got the gear on, you wouldn't be afraid. Deeply unstylish gear it has to be said!

    Legend - hopefully chooks this summer. Fingers crossed. all help welcome!

    Liz - will check out your friend's blog right away, thanks!

    Beth - you should have known better that it wasn't an allergic reaction lol!

    Ania - bee on your face?! I would have screamed the place down. Would you have been whipped by the nuns for that?

    Vix - have learned how to artificially swarm the bees. Not looking forward to having to do that though!

    TSB - you must tell me about the paranoid duck...sounds intriguing!
    Australasia is the only place in the world free from Varroa mite at the moment!

    Alex - where do you work that you've got bees at work?!

    Sage - you'd better believe it, bees will be coming my way. Soon. *determined face*

    LM - have subscribed via RSS reader to the blog. Thanks!

    Ali x

  12. Wow, nope no bee experience here! (Or chicken experience either... though I did once hold one on a photoshoot if that counts?) I like the sound of having bees though... bet you'd get pretty protective if you did get your own though!

  13. Dearest Ali, the picture you found is genius!

    I love bees, it would be wonderful to keep them... and chickens.

    Ruth knows about chickens and Ms Moon at Bless Our Hearts is brilliant.

    Hope you're good, much love, C xx

    PS. Nail colour is Big Apple Red by OPI

  14. What a super post, and how fantastic to handle the bees yourself. I love the idea of keeping bees, especially knowing that generally bees are In Peril. I hope you get a hive - it will also be an super excuse to buy lots more bee-friendly plants!


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