The pick up

June 6, early evening – they come in a wooden box marked Live Bees, written in red paint, with two pieces of blue string either side to carry. There is a lid on the box. I pick it up rather nervously conscious of the numbers inside. I’m told it’s a big swarm, more than 10,000. I place it in the boot of the car and drive off. As I drive round Hyde Park corner on my way back from Kennington, I hear a thud. Shit! I look in my mirror only to see to my horror that there are bees buzzing around in the back of the car! I manage to somehow pull over, and get out the car to take a closer look at what’s happened. The box has fallen on its side (why didn’t I wedge it in?) and lots of bees are clinging to the box or flying around. Shit, what now? I call Bee man (chair of the London Beekeepers’ Association). “Oh dear”, he says and then calmly tells me not to panic. That’s easy for him to say. “The bees aren’t interested in you, just drive home,” is his advice. I decide to open all the windows as it’s a warm evening and I know that hot bees equal angry bees. Just hope I don’t lose the queen.

Bee man is right. I get home unscathed. Most of the bees have managed to get back into the box, so I put on the Marigolds and carry the box through the flat into the garden and place it in front of the hive. They do sound very angry, if that’s what a loud, high pitched buzzing noise means. I have visions of them escaping in the communal hallway and attacking the neighbours, whom I haven’t yet told about my new pets. Bit of an oversight on my part, but I will tell the couple upstairs with the two year old, tomorrow morning!

Bee Man is most congenial, with a smiley face and the remnants of a thick grey beard. I put on my burka-style bee outfit, he dones just a hat and veil, not even gloves. He removes the lid of the box and gently removes one of the three frames inside and transfers it to the hive. I transfer the next two. The bees don’t seem at all bothered by us. I thought they’d be all over my bee suit but they’re not. This is not too scarey afterall. He gives the box a good shake above the hive so the bees that weren’t on the frames fall into their new home. We put the few frames that Brian had made before his departure (not the 11 he was supposed to have done) into the hive and put the lid on.

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