Family and Christmas go together. Sometimes you can add in beekeeping but it does not always work out as expected. This is an account of one such recollection. For many years our extended family gathered in the home town of Temora in NSW. Each year we travelled up from Victoria with our young family and the car fully packed for a few days of Christmas celebrations.
After the rounds of feasting, merriment and gift exchanging we would set out again on the return journey with the car even fuller. We got away early as usual and travelled in harmony through the rolling country-side, Wagga, Albury, Wangaratta all sliding past as we headed for home.
“Daddy there is a bee in the car,” a small voice exclaimed somewhere along the Midland Hwy.
“Is there? Well just wind down the window so it can get out.” Whoosh out of the window goes the bee, off for its very own free tour of central Victoria. Pilot and co-pilot exchanged a glance with a definite hint of eyebrows being a little higher than normal on the co-pilot. We travelled on in near bliss.
“Daddy there is another bee in the car!”
“Is there? Oh well just wind the window down again so it can get out.” Another exchange between pilot and co-pilot, but this time it’s more like a squint and a stare.
Unfortunately the call ‘bee in the car’ was made again and again, and now all the electric windows were going up and down liberating bees for the free tour. The boys were revved up and fully occupied playing the new game of releasing bees. To my left the stare had ramped up to a glare.
“How come we have so many bees getting into the car Daddy?”
“Well actually son there is a little beehive in the boot. Maybe some naughty bees have found their way out.” Looks of utter disbelief are passed around. With that news flash and with windows going up and down there was an unnaturally long pause in the conversation, and I sensed chunks of my credibility being sucked out the window with each bee set free.
“So Dad would this be the most stupid thing you have ever done?”
Well with my confidence already shaken I did not want to weigh up each and every mistake I had ever made; besides it might have taken some time. I dismissed the question with “It’s just a couple of bees boys – nothing to worry about – it will be fine - we will be home soon.” I snuck in a different topic “Gee was that the biggest turkey Nan and Pop have ever cooked?”
We pushed on with our travelling circus through Bonnie Doon and Yea and had suburbia with-in our grasp. But the novelty had worn thin – nerves tingling – a rebellion was brewing.
The gang made their stand at Yarra Glen (had we come down the Hume – they might have stuck to tradition and chosen Glenrowan I guess). We pulled up at a nice park and the boys jumped out and fled – the co-pilot took me aside for a bit of a chat. Suggestions were flung about like a crowd in full cry at a Boxing Day test. “Motel, book us in!”, “Taxi, just call a cab!” “Buy a can of Mortein and murder your little darlings!” - I grimaced at that one.
I gathered-up my remaining dignity and negotiated from any angle that could save both the bees and the cash in my wallet. I blatantly suggested there was little more to worry about as nearly all the bees had obviously escaped but then had to backpedal sheepishly when asked to open the boot to provide the evidence. After resorting to being practical I suggested we find and block the holes the bees were using to get from the boot to the cabin of the car. This idea had a ring of plausibility so we agreed on a compromise. We bought a can of Mortein, as a weapon of last resort, and a copy of The Age for paper to wad up every conceivable entry point around the back seat. Once more we headed for home. There were only a few more bees to sort out along the way.
A hint of normality was returning. So as we cruised I chanced a look over to my left to see how my beautiful and calm wife was doing. With fly spray in hand the stare was now fixed to the horizon but with a more thoughtful expression.
“So what are you thinking about?”
“Oh just the colour of the new shoes to go with my new dress”. I bit my tongue.
We eventually arrived home and the family retreated to the safety of the house and I took the car down to the beginnings of our bee yard and started to think through the options. I opened the boot. A wreathing brown veneer oozed over the luggage. An image similar to mud wrestlers in a boggy pit was burnt into my retina and memory. Gosh – how was I to know so many bees could have been inside such a small hive. Depending on your point of view this was either a glass half full or glass half empty situation. On the positive side, miraculously, no one had been stung and I still had bees but on the not so positive side the bees were on the loose and the car was a shocking mess.
I took the beehive out of the boot and placed it on the prepared stand. Oh and yes, I carefully re-seated the errant lid on the hive as I didn’t want to lose the last handful of bees. With the boot open I chased and watched bees go here and there for hours. It was time to give up. I left the car wide open and deserted the tragic scene.
I trudged back to the house for a coffee. Every Christmas present trapped in the boot was suddenly being urgently requested by parties that had a valid claim of innocence. I suspected they may have been coached to ask awkward questions. Nature is funny like that – it can heap new stress onto those that are already carrying their fair share. Fully knackered by the day’s events I settled down on the couch for a well deserved night of uncomfortable sleep.
Next morning I found all the bees happy enough in their hive and going about business as they do. The bee free car was brought back to the house and the luggage delivered. We had just the odd dead bee in the car to remind everyone of our little adventure. With our drama over, much was now forgiven and I was able to finally proudly announce our bee yard had gained a hive. In fact I got to thinking that our trip had been an all round success, but curiously, enthusiasm for bee ferrying did not catch on.