My good friend Clint is the man to call if your sewer is backed up (he’s one of Mr. Rooter’s most promising franchisees) . . . he built me an outdoor shower once as a house gift (others bring Zabar’s coffee or salmon, for which Charles and I are very grateful; Clint brought pipe and a soldering gun) . . . and, I now discover, he likes bees.
His apiary philosophy has always been: I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me. Plus, he and his friend eat a lot of honey. So last year he called and ordered 4 hives.
Bee hives — unless this whole thing was an elaborate put-on — are quite inexpensive and are delivered by mail. Mail order bee hives. (“The Post Office calls real quick when your package arrives,” Clint tells me.) Each hive costs only about $50, if I remember this properly, and contains around 20,000 bees. One of which — the Queen — is in her own separate little compartment. Properly tended, each hive will ultimately house 80,000 bees.
“What happens to the bees when they die? Where do they go?” I asked Clint.
“The other bees throw them out of the hive.”
“And the honey?”
Far from dripping down to some clever collecting pan, as I had expected (isn’t gravity what moves maple syrup to market? And isn’t maple syrup right next to honey in the food chain?), the bees apparently put it upstairs, above their living quarters.
“How do they know to do this?” I asked.
They just do, apparently. And this year Clint expects to get about 100 pounds (jars?) of honey from his four hives.
“They sell them by mail?” I asked again, not quite ready to let this go.
Not only that, you have a choice of buying them in either the one-pound or the two-pound size. (This is exclusive of the weight of the apparatus they come in — it’s just the bees.)
Even the unflappable Clint had apparently asked, bemused, when he ordered them: “How do you weigh bees?” After all, aren’t they airborne much of the time? Do you whistle real loud to get their attention and then say, “Now everybody, just SIT DOWN for ONE SECOND!”?
Clint says the woman he was ordering from did not find the question amusing and just ignored it.
And now you are wondering — and I am going to dispel that wonder — what you do when it’s time to separate the honey from the bees. Basically, in this case, you call the same man you’d call for any other tough, potentially unpleasant job: Mr. Rooter.
Clint and his friend don the stuff you see in the movies — though Clint doesn’t worry about doing it too carefully (“I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me”) — and they do that maneuver we’ve all seen on the Disney Channel.
And this last time — with 80,000 bees buzzing around him until the bell sounds to signal the end of the fire drill and it’s OK for the bees to go back into the building — a bee actually stung Clint for the first time in his life.
No big deal, he said. (This is a man who rides his bike 20 miles to a yoga class. A little bee sting is not something to get all excited about.) Except that he began to feel funny and swell up and his doctor said to get to the Emergency Room right away and he now has to carry one of those “bee pens” with him wherever he goes, to inject himself in case of emergency, because it turns out Clint is allergic to bee stings.
Does this mean he and his friend will be auctioning off the hives on E-Bay? (And would that make them e-bees?) Will he revert to buying his honey at the Safeway like everyone else?
Hardly. Clint remains yoga-calm in his apiary philosophy. And I think the bees — with the obviously exception of that one socially maladjusted terrorist worker bee — sense it. He doesn’t bother them, and they don’t bother him.
As soon as I get off this airplane (I’m writing this on a computer at 37,000 feet, which is almost as amazing as the way bees make honey), I am naturally going to the Internet to find bee-hive mail order sites. I am not suggesting any of you — let alone I — go out and order bees. (I’d like to hear what the condo association would have to say about that.) I just marvel that there is a whole world out there beyond the pavement. And someone who actually knows how to unclog sewers. And what a phlange is. (I could look that last one up, but I like to retain the mystery. Spell check tells me it’s actually spelled “flange.”)