If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that I’m an aspiring bee-keeper. Back in the spring we took possession of two hives of fantastic bees, lovingly fed them sugar syrup, assembled and painted bright new hives and generally gave them a bloody marvellous home. Then something sinister happened: one of my beautiful hives transformed into the Mean Machine. I’m not talking about Burt Reynolds in tight pants, but an aggressive Beta Colony of agro bees intent on stinging any poor fool who tries to approach them.
Like any mean bully, they were never the strongest. Thinking perhaps that the bees were trying to compensate for their physical weakness, I made a bid to boost their strength before the season got too late and swapped out a frame of fresh brood from Alpha and put it into Beta to give them a kick. I got stung several times in the process and on reflection have to admin that doing it in sweltering 40C heat wasn’t my smartest idea. However, there was no doubt in my mind – Beta bees were in fact, transforming from those initial happy-go-lucky fun-time bees into Belligerent Geordie Bees.
I checked them a week ago and had barely cracked open the hive lid when I was viciously attacked and stung again. If anything, the bees were meaner than ever. Like Darth Vader in a TIE fighter, I couldn’t shake those buggers off. My Beta Colony bees simply would not leave me alone until they had stung and reduced me to a hopping, flapping, panicky shambles.
Now, the shame of failure is a bitter draught to drink and I’ll freely admit that I’m not a man who likes to savour the dregs from that cup. So, after my neighbour (who keeps bees too) suggested that their behaviour is typical of a Queen-less hive, I called up Brent (the Bee Guy) and got him to come and inspect them. After all, while my queen was cheaper than a night out with Liz, she still cost me the tidy side of $250 and if she was a dud, I wanted a new one.
I was grimly pleased to discover that the Bee Guy got stung several times in short order too and after muttering to himself “They are unusually aggressive” he scuttled away to put on a full suit. Meanwhile, the Geordies had stung my son on the leg and he howled like only a seven year old can. You’d have thought that would distract the bees from stinging me, but no. They nailed my back a couple of times for good measure so that under the pretence of needing to check on my son, I too was sent gambolling for the relative safety of my garage to put on a heavy rain coat.
By the time I had got back to the hive, the Bee Guy had found the queen and committed regicide by squashing her. He said it was for the best. He said it was the only way to change their behaviour. He said there was no other option. Personally, I think he might have tried counselling first. He also declared that my innocent queen was most likely a slut with a fancy for a bit of rough. Having found the equivalent of a drunken Jimmy Nail on her maiden flight, she had ruthlessly shagged him until he died and was now popping out angry Geordie Jimmy Bees in the thousands.
And so my queen is dead. Perhaps like Morrissey, the Beta Colony will stage a comeback and make bad but harmless music without the angst or edge of yesterday. Or perhaps it’s best that she’s gone to bee Nirvana and doomed the hive to destruction. Only time will tell.
To make amends for whacking my $250 avian royal, the Bee Guy came and delivered a new queen the day after and, now that her pheromones are recognised and accepted by the hive, is due back tomorrow to release her. Personally, if she is in fact surrounded by bewildered Geordie Jimmy Bees all the new queen needed to do was take off her stripey top and make inappropriate gestures with a bottle of Hooch toward the biggest drone to gain complete acceptance. Unfortunately, the Bee Guy is Canadian and of course couldn’t have known the mating ritual of the Common Geordie and so we had to wait the few days for time to do what alcopops could have hastened.
Hopefully the new queen is demure and likes her drones more like Commander Data than Jimmy Nail. Either way, I’m taking their honey next month however many stings it costs me.