It started innocently enough about a month ago with the birds, who I am always feeding and luring into my ultra-urban little back yard on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I wanted to get more cherries in my apathetic cherry trees (for the birds to eat,) and my local wild bird store was selling Mason Bees. So I got a Mason Bee kit and started researching bees, and found myself enamored with them.
Meanwhile, while happily watching the mason bees do their bee thing, I started to wonder about honey bees, which lead to many hours of reading and watching videos on honey bees.
Last Wednesday I was talking with my sweet friend beekeeper friend Derek over dinner, and he was so animated and excited that I caught the buzz. Friday I had lunch with another beekeeper friend, Marguerite, which lead to me coming over to help her check her hives that afternoon. She told me that if I wanted to keep bees this year I had to start immediately, as bees were coming this weekend, and it would be too late if I wasn’t up and running with the next couple of weeks.
Saturday morning I went to a funeral for dear friend and coworker, 38 years old, who died in her sleep with no history of health problems, who apparently had an undiagnosed brain tumor. It’s been an intense week of grief. Right after the funeral I got a message from Derrek, who invited me over to help him split a hive and examine his bees. Hungry for something life-affirming, I headed right over.
That afternoon Derek told me he had orered two boxes of bees (bees come in boxes?!?) arriving the next day, but thought he only needed one…so there was one box left that I could buy! Next thing I know I’m at Ballard Bee Company buying two hive kits from Corky, and then was up until 1am building and painting boxes.
Sunday morning, I had breakfast with my friend and neighbor Julia, a professional gardener who has always wanted to keep bees, and she excitedly nominated herself as co-beekeeper! So Julia spent the rest of the morning helping me build frames, then off we went to watch Derek and his boyfriend Abe release a box into Derek’s hive to learn how it was done (Julia’s first time in the bees, and she was immediately as smitten as I was), and the next stop was Ballard Bees, for our own two boxes!
The thrill of 6 pounds of beez buzzing in the back of my tiny Smart Car was electric!
We got them home and housed in our two newly built hives…and that’s how 20 Mason Bees turned into 20,000 honey bees practically overnight!
There has been something incredibly life-affirming and healing about starting bees in the week immediately following an unexpected death. I am excited about collaborating with my friends, learning lots of new things, and getting to know the Jaimies and the Shuras (the hives are named after my lost friend/co-worker Jaime and my old housemate Shura, who died of breast cancer 4 years ago and who gardened in these bee’s yard).
Julia and I are both avid learners, and are thrilled to be collaborating on this new project.
Derek told me earlier this week that “Every beekeeper you meet is a wonderful person. They are usually quirky and odd and interesting, and every one has a heart of gold. You have to be an awesome person to keep bees.” We’ve already found this to be so true!