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Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

Here’s the thing: I really love honey. I eat a lot of it, always. I put it in, on and near most everything I eat. I’m like a human Winnie the Pooh, only with more sarcasm.

So when I saw the ad for the Beginner Beekeeping class, I thought, “Yes, this is it. Honey. Free. Forever. I’m in.”

And I maintained this enthusiasm, this lust for free honey, right up until the time when the bee started to crawl into my ear. But I’m getting ahead of myself.



The class was inspiring – the place where the class was being held had several hives, and one of them swarmed about 10 minutes after the class started. Bees swarm because a new queen is born. The old queen leaves the hive, taking a bunch of bees with her, and they set out to find a new place to live. This means a thick cloud of bees buzzing all around. You know … a swarm … a place where you can run away screaming and nobody will judge you for it.

But instead of running away, we, the bee students, were encouraged to move into the swarm. Yes, into. Into the swarm. Slowly. It was intense, which is what one hopes for from a one-day intensive class. And all this was done without the protective bee-bonnet things. No face netting, just me and the bees. It was amazing, being around the energy of these mystical little creatures. Wow, I think I could do this. I can commune with the bees, support the pollination of my community, be a guardian of the noble bee and get a buttload of free honey out of the deal. There is nothing but good about this. This might be my calling.



Over the next few weeks I build a little wooden hive for my backyard, get a swarm from Mark Burrows, the Carbondale bee guru (contact him for all your bee needs), and before I know it I’m in my backyard, standing next to a cardboard box full of bees. After taking some deep breaths to get myself all Zen and centered, I open up the box.

Wow, that’s a lot of bees. A volleyball-sized clump clinging to the lid. I slowly – very slowly – move the bee ball over the opening in the top of the new hive and … shloomp! That’s the sound of me shloomping the bees into their new hive. This is how you’re supposed to do it. You just kind of fling them off, like shaking excess water off your hands. Only in this case I’m shaking 20,000 or so seemingly sleeping bees into an empty wooden box.

They are suddenly very awake.

I was told that they’d be very excited by this transfer and that they’d be crawling all over me, on my face and such, and that I just needed to be cool with it. I thought I could hack it, but the very first bee that lands on me, just seconds later, goes directly into my ear. Not on my ear … in. In my ear. It’s crawling into my earhole! It’s headed toward my brain!

To my credit, I don’t freak out. But that brain-bound bee has to be discouraged, and I do so with a series of quick flaps to the side of my head. I’m still without bee mesh but am wearing gloves and goggles. Don’t want a bee on my eyeball. But I completely forgot about the earholes.

They’re all over me now, and I still have to dump the remaining bees from the box. My composure is diminishing quickly, and now there’s a bee crawling into my nostril. Uh oh. Another hole I’d neglected to seal up. A different route to my brain! And then it stings me. In my nose.

Backing. Away. Now.

Another sting on my cheek. Okey dokey, then. Really backing away now! Taking off hat for some gentle flapping. Sting on top of the head. Ow! Should have left the hat on. Wondering where the nearest pond is. Ow! One has gone down my shirt and just stung me in the stomach. I should be glad that there’s at least one that isn’t heading toward my brain, but still … ow! Maybe paying for honey isn’t such a bad thing after all.

The next day the bees have calmed down and are settling in nicely. I’m able to sit close to the hive as they buzz around me in a much more friendly manner. They’re fascinating and soothing at the same time. I think I’m going to like this new adventure.

Even more so once the swelling has gone down.


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