Monday, May 14, 2007

What's the Buzz, Tell me what's A-Happening

A man walked into a post office...
talking on his cell phone, as 8 or 10 of us waited patiently in line for the next available postal clerk. He was projecting rather loudly so it was impossible not to eavesdrop in that quiet space: "Okay, I didn't know if I needed to go around back or anything; okay, yep I see it." He hung up and by-passed the line, stepping over to a door that clearly went back into the sorting area of the facility. The door had a hinged section on the upper half that was made to open into a window. It was closed at the moment, blocking all view into the back area, and the man waited in front of it. The rest of us contiued to wait, now somewhat less patiently, not because of this man, but rather because the left-most postal clerk was now discussing a third movie plot with her current customer (an older Katherine Hepburn film this time, Adam's Rib). The opaque door-window opened just then, providing us a welcome distraction. A postal employee handed the man a small wooden frame, maybe 12 by 18 inches, covered with screen and a mailing label. Inside the screen were dozens or hundreds of small dark moving objects that could soon be recognized as honey bees, both by their appearrance and by the buzzing that was clearly audible as the gentleman thanked the postman and walked back past our line and out of the lobby.

The woman behind me remarked, "I didn't even know you could send bees through the mail." Nor did I, but clearly here was proof positive that you can. And apparently it's a good thing that you can, since we seem to be in need of replacement honey bees as I've been hearing and reading about Colony Collapse Disorder on National Public Radio, in the papers, and about people who are combatting it, or just trying out beekeeping as a hobby, like Neil Gaiman.

Seems like a very nice thing to do, but bees and wasps make me jumpy, even nice honey bees -- I suspect they're hive memory still holds a grudge from my kindergarten days when I would dare myself to stomp on bees that were finding pollen in ever taller flowers. Bees on flowers that were 1 or two inches off the ground were quickly sneaker-sole stains, but moving up to flowers 6 or 8 inches above the grass was a bit more of a challenge, you had to push them pretty directly and pretty quickly down into the turf, or they flew out the sides and were not happy honey-makers... so I try to show bees and their kin a bit of deference these days, lest I end up in a scene like those from the later pages of The Berenstain Bears "The Big Honey Hunt".

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