My crazy bee tale
The craziest thing happened to me yesterday evening. It all started earlier in the week when I visited my bees on Tuesday to give them some sugar syrup as Mike Townsend, local walking bee encyclopedia, instructed me to. Then on Thursday and Friday emails were going round and bee people were twittering that with a particularly bad weekend of weather forecast, beekeepers should continue feeding their bees.
So, yesterday evening after work I donned my bee suit, took my syrup (I opted for a weaker “summer” syrup of 1 pint water to 1lb sugar having chatted to a lady on the BBKA stand at Gardener's World Live yesterday) got in the car and drove to my Beehaus in Leamington Spa. I decided to drive in my beesuit as it's a faff taking my shoes off and zipping myself into it when I'm there. (I'm sure I got a few strange looks as I drove past in my bright orange 'boiler suit'). Anyway, I arrived at the bees. I knew I wanted to be quick because although it wasn't raining the wind was blowing a gale and I didn't want to disturb them too much.
But, before I get into lifting the lid of the Beehaus, I'll explain how I feed the bees. It is very simple really. On top of my Beehaus is a big green lid, when you take that off you have four clearer boards that cover the top of the hive. If you want to feed your bees, you can replace one of the clearer boards with one that has a small oval hole in the middle – about 5cm wide by 10cm long. You take your polythene bag that is full of syrup and prick about 10 little holes in it using a pin and then place this over the hole in the clearer board. The bees will then come up to it and suck the syrup through these little holes. So, all I had to do last night was replace the empty polythene bag with the new one I had brought. Easy Peazy. I just wanted to make sure that I was quick so the bees didn't fly out through the hole in the clearer board – it doesn't matter if they do but the idea is not to cause too much disturbance.
So, I'd pricked my polythene bag and I was ready to swap them. I lifted the lid off the Beehaus and was very pleased to see that they had finished all the syrup from Tuesday. I started to move the bag to swap it, when some bees escaped. I thought to myself, ' wow, I can hear quite a lot of buzzing round my head'. That was about the point I realised that I hadn't zipped the hood on my bee suit!!
I didn't want to panic and start running around like a mad banshee flailing my arms about. Instead, I calmly put the empty bag over the hole with my hive tool on top so the opening was closed and walked away from the hive. I walked about 10 or so steps but kept hearing this one bee round my head. I thought that it may be in my hair, which was in a low ponytail. I undid my hair and shook it out (I have quite long hair). When the buzzing stopped, I put my hair back in a high ponytail and pulled it through in a sort of bunch on top of my head (ladies, you'll know what I mean).
I then zipped myself in and calmly walked back to the hive, took the empty polythene bag away and quickly replaced it with the full bag making sure the little pin pricks were located over the hole in the clearer board, put the lid back on and walked away. I then went into the house to say hi to Sarah, Ian and Lina, our friend who was visiting. I chatted for awhile then got in my car and drove home. At home I had a cup of tea and mooched around for a bit before having a shower as I was going out for a curry with some of the ladies from Regency Runners.
I was in my bedroom and took my hair out of its bunch. I was running my fingers through my hair when I heard this buzz. I didn't see the bee fly out from my hair but it must have done. It immediately flew to the bedroom window in an attempt to escape. I couldn't believe it – I'd carried this bee in my hair from the hive and had been walking around with it for over 30 minutes. I went downstairs, picked up a glass and a bit of post from the kitchen counter and went to the window to trap my bee. I then let it loose outside the back door where it quickly buzzed off.
Although the bee escaped it is a bitter sweet ending because I'm really not sure the little bee would have been able to find its way back to the Beehaus. I know that bees can fly up to 2 miles away from the hive (I think that's what I learnt) when they go out foraging but I live 2.6 miles away from Sarah and Ian's garden.
Later last night, when I relayed my story to one of my friends, they asked why I didn't take the bee back home. Perhaps I should have. I could have asked the taxi driver who drove me into Leamington to drop the little bee at home first before he dropped me at the bar...