Sunday, 18 October 2015


     My bee-keeping outfit of a white space-suit type over-all with fencing hood and some long white kid gloves have arrived from Pakistan and very smart and pristine they are.  It is time to meet the bees who were installed by a kind friend in my new hive where they are to work and supply me and family with honey and do a little public work, pollinating the local  fruit and vegetable crops.  Dressing up can be fun, but I am unsure how to start making myself bee-proof and know I might forget a vital item and leave a hole for the bees to invade my space.
   So first, should I put on the gear? or, should I get the tool box ready and light that tricky smoker? then dress up!  I decide to  get everything ready on the front door step which is convenient for both jobs -  My housemaid's plastic tray-box with handle holds the hive tool, a queen cage, two canvas roller covers and a plastic bag for collecting brace comb.   I can nip inside the house, out of the wind, to light the smoker and use the steps to pull on the suit and wellies.  Smoker stinks of previous fires and I have not curled up enough corrugated paper to get it all alight - smoke pours out into the hall and into my hair while I struggle with broken matches and shaky hands.  Once alight and sending out plumes on the terrace, I concentrate on pulling the over-large suit onto my legs - suit seems to be made for a giant although I played safe and ordered a medium size for suit and gloves - I thought Pakistan bee-keepers might be rather smaller than Brits?   Half- way through fixing the fencing type head-gear on, I realise I have forgetten my glasses - how on earth will I see the eggs and the queen without them?  So off with the top part, on with the loop of glasses and I survey the many- fangled zips - which one to close first?  One round the neck with two rings to pull seems to be rather important but no!  the up and down the body one gets priority and there is a neat little extra zip down the bottom which I presume is for gentlemen caught short, and somewhat useless for ladies.   There are several small loops to be sorted out - one for each little finger on the cuffs to stop the sleeve rolling up - quite neat!  another loop to hang up the quite bulky suit and two more on the long gloves - are they to fasten on my ears?? now I remember I put them on myself so I could hang waxy bee stained gauntlets up with the suit on the bee  wardrobe hook - how many bees have I got in my bonnet??The neck zip is very neat and has a velcro patch to cover any possible hiding hole for bees at its closure - they've really thought this security thing through - but then a chilling thought comes to me - how about if the zips get stuck and I am caught inside my suit for days and days with only the bees laughing their heads off while I, unable to eat or drink with the face mask secured, stomp off in my wellies down the lane looking like a spacewoman and frightening all the natives away ?

   By now, my smoker is exhausted and no smoke to be seen - oh dear! do I have to go through that lighting business again and how can I strike matches with big white glove fingers that drop everything?  A few quick squeezes and suddenly I am choking  with a lung-full of acrid smoke, enough to quell a thousand bees -.

  As I approach the hives, I remind myself to be calm and steady, to introduce myself with a very gentle puff of smoke at the entrance and maybe another after I have lifted the lid and removed the crown board, and prepare to meet my lovely bees and to make friends with them, in return for their gifts of wax and honey.  They seem calm enough and I promise to return when I, too, have calmed down and look after them for future prosperity, and the dressing up becomes a mere formality  before coping with the beehive as a regular exercise and pleasure.