I wonder if this is what it is like to be a first-time parent with a newborn baby??
Suddenly, you are in charge of LIFE, of another being that sort-of plonks, mysterious, into your world, and nine different aunties tell you ten different tales about how to care for this cryptic creature; how to satisfy it’s natural instincts, how to protect it from this mighty mean world, how to know what it wants – and you think, blimey, why did I get knocked-up by curiosity in the first place?
And newborn babies don’t come with five thousand venomous bottoms.
I have been on the bee-team (which, as it happens, is way cooler than the A-team) for six months, apprenticing myself under the wonderful Christy & Cody Kerr – our favourite Kentucky-fried couple with a bit more than a passion for our fuzzy buzzy friends. My intro to beekeeping was hardly your happy hands-free powerpoint situation – we had everything from laying workers to relentless robbing to varroa infestations – indeed, I look forward to the day when my beekeeping style resembles more that of Pooh-bear off to a picnic than Mad Max in a moon-suit with a semi-smoking canister of twigs and a question-mark floating over my head.
I jest, I jest – it is less often lack of confidence with bees that gives me my sometimes underwater feeling than it is my mountain of awe at their nature. They know what’s what – it’s not hard to feel like a fumbling hooligan in the midst of such exquisite architecture and super-social genius. I begin to realise just how important it is to hit the balance between mothering them through all the abuses they are subject to, from pests or humans, and letting them work it out themselves. The bottom line is to build colonies of honeybees that do not rely on drugs or sugar for their survival, like some poor patient on life-support, but are naturally strong and resilient to all the ever-changing environmental pressures in their (that is, our) world.
Allow me a quick plug? On the weekend of April 19-20 we are holding a top-bar beekeeping workshop in our wee apiary at Koanga. Great chance to get your head around the buzz, and your hands too. It’ll be theory and discussion (and happy powerpoints!) on the basics – colony structure, seasonal hive management, pros and cons of different hive designs, problem-solving etc, along with plenty of time getting into the hives themselves and having a serious nosy around. We’ll build a top-bar hive from scratch, monitor some varroa, play with some beeswax, watch a doco or two in the evening, and generally have a rollicking good time, I reckon.