Sometimes a bad thing makes me reconnect to what I love about beekeeping.
We had to open the hives to put in the small hive beetle traps, but we decided not to smoke the bees, not wanting to disrupt them and cause a hive-wide panic attack and mass nectar robbing. The bees were peaceful, so we watched for a time. Every frame was full of bees; they’d come to the tops of the frames, look at us, then go back down into the chamber. No problems. No threats. No stinging. Only a low fuzzy buzzing and the smell of warm honey and bees.
Unfortunately, we spilled some mineral oil into Veronica when we put in the trap. They didn’t like that at all, and a small chorus of shrill bee voices complained from under the plastic container. The bees nearest to the spill clustered around, cleaning the top bars madly.
But the hive stayed calm. Only a couple bees were loudly griping. The rest were annoyed at the oil but remained very businesslike. As they cleaned, it seemed they were communicating—touching each other, licking each other, bumping together gently. I thought how marvelous is a working hive. It sounds sappy, but I fell in love with bees all over again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m worried that the mineral oil might hurt them. I’m worried that the SHB is going to starve them, demoralize them, kill them. I worry about mites, ants, birds, virus. Bees are a lot of worry, a lot of work.
But the SHB gave us an excuse to open the hive. And just to be able to watch their inner world for a few moments as they go about their lives is the best part of the job. Even sweeter than the honey.