The Breath of Death – oh how my bees hate CO2

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My mother had a stroke about ten years ago.  She has recovered but the stoke left the left-side of her body paralyzed.  After a few months of therapy, she was able to walk short distances and is able to live alone – though my brother lives across the street from her and I live just a few doors down.  
The point is that she enjoys going with me to my bee yard.  She sits in the truck (wearing a veil – just in case) and watches me as I work my bees.  Truth is, she just likes getting out of the house.
Half the time I drive right up to the hives but only when I need to carry in large amounts of equipment.  The rest of the time I park near the land owner’s house and just walk in to keep from harming his grass.
Yesterday was one of those days.  I left mom sitting in the truck with the windows down and a cooling cloth (it’s like a shammy and when you wet it, it stays cool.)  Then I went out to check the bees.
After about 25 minutes I heard my mother shouting.  My hives are about 150 yards away from the house, so I couldn’t make out what she was saying but she sounded like she was in distress.  I dropped everything and began to run through the woods towards her.
While in the days of old, I was quite the athlete, these days I am fat and out of shape and resemble a water buffalo with a bruised testicle when I run.  Nonetheless, I ran with all my might until I was in eye sight of mom.  However, by this time she was waving her hands for me to stop.  When I was close enough to hear her, I asked what the hell she was shouting about.
She said, “You were gone for a while and I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I have a phone!  Why didn’t you just call me?”
She replied, “I didn’t want to bother you.”  
Believe it or not, she had those same reasoning skills even before the stroke.
Well, I was on my last hive so I went back into the woods and continued my inspection.  I gave the bees a puff of smoke and then began closely checking how many frames of brood they had produced – not realizing I was still panting like an asthmatic porn star.  That was when it happened.  The bees, who until now had been politely milling around the hive, instantly and in complete unison, looked up at me and began furiously fanning their wings.  I swear I heard one of them tell the others, “Lock the door!”  However, since this hive is one of my new Italian Hives, a single puff of smoke neutralized their aggression and they went right back to milling around.
Had this happened in my bad hive, known as The Beast, the bees would have tried to kill me.  Did you get that last sentence, “The bees would have tried to kill me.”  That brings me to my point, while good bees are an absolute joy to work with, an aggressive hive like The Beast is actually filled with bees that want to kill me.
That thought crossed my mind yesterday and for the first time, I realized that working with The Beast is actually a life and death event.  Some day soon, I am going to have to face The Beast and either the queen will be killed or I will.  I know it is not quite that dramatic but then again maybe it really is.  I normally get 50+ stings when I just inspect the hive.  If I do not properly suit up, then that number could go high enough to kill me.  My friend Marvin told me once that 200 sings is equivalent to a rattle snake bite – I’m not sure how he knows that.  Just the same, it does put the task in a rather harsh light.
In the audio book, The Wonder of Beekeeping: National Trust Beekeeping, Written by Andrew Davis and narrated by the coolest sounding scotsman, Alex Norton; Davis says, “Don’t make excuses for bad bees.”  I think this is good advice.  The only question is how do you get rid of a bad queen when the hive is so aggressive?
Well anyway, that is all for today.  I still have a few hundred plastic frames to clean, so I had better go find something to procrastinate on to avoid having to deal with that.

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