The Stupid Bravery of Morning Coffee: Or, why you shouldn’t beekeep in a bathrobe


Let me start this post by saying flat-out that everything you read next will make you doubt my intelligence.  I often do too.  But when you are as hare-brained as I can be sometimes, the more rational part of you has a lot of funny material to write about later. That is my disclaimer and apology.  Now enjoy a scenario you are surely too smart to ever get yourself into.

It had been 4 full days since I dumped the package of bees into the hive, and every time I peeked in to check them, the bees seemed happy. But I was confused.  To my amateur eye, they had stayed in a ball instead of spreading out along the bars to build comb as I had expected. It didn’t look like they were doing anything but hanging out. I was too afraid to disturb such a solid mass of bees, so I left hem alone.

That night I dug around in my bee books for information on what a hive should look like at day four. I  found nothing, and went to sleep worried, dreaming of angry bees and getting stung and my lack of courage.

I woke ashamed of myself.  You are a beekeeper.  Get in there and beekeep!

I drank my coffee while watching a video by beekeeper David Burns about inspecting his top bar hive. It gave me courage. Too much courage.  I went out to check my bees on the way to letting the chickens out of the henhouse — barefooted and in my robe.

I know this seems really obvious: don’t mess with bees when you are not ready.  And not when you are wearing something loose and flowing they could easily get tangled in. And not when you are naked under that loose, flowing thing.  

In my defense, it was cold and the bees were not active. I opened the hive and lifted one of the bars carefully, with two hands, like I had seen in the video. The wood released with a tiny tug, strings of bees dangling like slobber off the mouth of a cow chewing its cud. What I thought was a solid mass of bussing life revealed itself to be at least one comb, layered with busy bees.

I was fascinated and excited, but three guardian bees were not so happy with my interference. Like X-Wing Fighters peeling off to attack the Death Star, they flew right at me, disappearing into my robe.

I set the bar down quickly and backed away from the hive.  My robe was buzzing.

I was only about 20 yards from the house, and though my yard is private, I was not about to run through it naked. I moved toward the house as fast as someone with a robe full of bees could, dropping the robe on the kitchen floor before I’d even shut the door.

But the buzzing didn’t stop.

I ran into the bedroom, startling my boyfriend Neil, a very reluctant beekeepers apprentice.  “Please check me for bees!  There is buzzing and I don’t know where it is coming from!”  He was unable to find anything, but as I spun for one more check, I saw a shadow fly off into a corner. Neil later found the bee and put it outside. (Neil, by the way, thinks I am an idiot, and in this case, I am inclined to agree)

I got dressed – properly this time – and had another cup of coffee before I headed sheepishly outside to finish the inspection.

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