I’m not good at nurturing. In the past few years I’ve managed to make a rosemary plant resemble a sepia Dr. Seuss illustration, kill a pot of Devil’s Ivy, and psychologically damage a Pomeranian. I should not have children, goldfish, or yogurt. Living things should steer clear of my path if they like their current existential situation.
That said, I am afraid of bees*. I fear them, I hate them, I would like it if they all just went away. (Which apparently they are.) I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me again about how they’re “so good for the flowers” and “keep our ecosystem functioning” and “help to prevent detrimental things from taking over the garden.” I have one thing to say to you: Shut up, hippies.
Bees are scary. They buzz, they look like aliens, they sting and kill people. Some even bite and sting. And some wait until January to show up when you’re decorating for a sober New Year’s party and they sting you on the upper thigh when you’re in a room filled with strangers, leaving you to swell up, freak out, cry, and yank your skirt up, humiliating yourself in front of people you don’t know, and forever burning the image of your pale, pale, stinger-penetrated leg into their minds.
I fucking hate bees.
However, if you want to learn how to kill a shit-ton of them, investigate how to become a beekeeper. It is apparently somewhat difficult to create a happy home for several thousand socially advanced anthropods.
Some companies ship bees to the beekeeping hobbyist, but this often results in stressed out bees. (No shit. Air travel sucks. Air travel when your natural mode of movement is flying? Probably a little bit of a mind fuck.) So, instead you can pick up your bee starter kit from Betterbee, or another association closer to you, in order to keep your terrifying, venom-filled little insects all Zen and shit. Because the fuckers die if they are too hot, not properly hydrated, eaten by birds, poisoned by pesticides, or if they go investigate a flower that happens to be occupied by an assassin bug or crab spider.
I am torn by the crab spider. It’s scary, but it eats bees.
For you, weirdo beekeeper, these are but a tiny slice of your anxiety-riddled journey into apiary. The business of bee breeding makes sense. People — sick, twisted, bee-loving people — breed and hybridize social varieties of bees so that they will have more favorable and profitable traits: disease resistance, the ability to make buckets of honey, less of a tendency to be their damn scary selves and swarm, a stronger sex drive, and my personal favorite, “mild disposition.” Bees, like children, also require sugar in order to thrive. As I sit here typing this, it dawns on me that the similarities between children and bees are staggering.
Professional beekeeping obviously is crucial to the production of honey, as well as beeswax, and bees can be bred to help populate crops. Aside from the goal of making a profit, what distinguishes a hobbyist from a professional is the number of colonies maintained. Commercial beekeepers keep up to 50,000 colonies of bees. That is not a typo. The reason why this might not be the stupidest career move is that across the globe beekeepers only comprise about 5% of bee owners, but they produce roughly 60% of the world’s honey crop. A competitive field to be sure. But a small one. More of a reason to sell the honey right out of your hive.
If you’ve decided that beekeeping bests breaking your back at your day job, you need to buy a hive set up after you’ve figured out the most amenable area to place it. (Your ex-girlfriend’s bedroom might seem like a viable option, but bees require some level of warmth.) A lot of sites recommend that you buy a Langstroth, which is a respected hive model. You will need two (2) box hives in order to start out. Then you need a screen mask and gloves with gauntlets that go up way past your wrists. Order the bees around the winter holidays so that you’re assured your little bundle of buzzing joy by spring. Then you should get yourself a smoker to keep the bees chilled out when you have to peep their digs and make sure that they’re okay and producing honey. Put a little ganja in the smoker and the bees will eventually produce reggae.
Start up costs are pretty low, as you’ll need two hives for about $500 a pop, the suit is under $200, and the smoker (heh) is around $30. Oh, and the bees? Almost as cheap as fear. $25 for a queen, $120 for a package.
Granted, to someone like me who looks at $150 as my cellphone bill and part of my rent, buying bees is stupid. No matter how bad the shortage gets, there are still too many from my point of view. Besides, even though the average beekeeper in the US makes about 40K a year, they have to provide their own health insurance and retirement plan. In most other countries, beekeepers are at least eligible for medical care. I’ve moved enough times in the past few years. I’ll continue freelancing, making somewhere around belly-button lint and a Diet Pepsi annually, and providing my own healthcare. (Being vegan, asking friends, “Does this look infected?” and pulling out before climax are some main components of my health insurance policy.) At least in my work environment the only stinging and swelling I have to encounter comes from Simon. There’s a joke that goes here. One with the punchline being that he’s a queen.
* I am not afraid of the bees that look like they’re wearing little sweaters.
Send me some buzz: AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com. Thank you to everyone who donates, it takes some of the sting out of being poor.
We can be your drones. Hire us.
Final Useful Links:
Häagen-Dazs’ Help the Honey Bees campaign combines both my vegan aversion to ice cream and my biggest fear, but I must admit, it’s a pretty rad idea and a wonderfully fun website.
What I love about this eHow article is what it says at the top:
“You will need:
- Beehive kit
- Thorough understanding of beekeeping
- Proper equipment for handling bees”