I had a singular honor bestowed on me recently. A honey bee, a queen, was named for me.
Queen Carol. I like the sound of it. It was totally unexpected, and it tickled me more than I could have imagined such a thing would.
Truthfully, I’ve never been fond of bees. Growing up on the farm, I spent most of my childhood outdoors playing barefoot in our clover-blanketed yard, and I stepped on a lot of bees over the years and got stung a lot. So nowadays my attitude is, “Thanks for the honey. Don’t let the door slap you on the stinger on your way out.” When Himself once mentioned installing a hive in the backyard I quickly shot down that suggestion. Why not backyard chickens?, I countered. They’re never in danger of becoming africanized and flying around attacking people. I can think of plenty of better–or at least more meaningful–ways to die than by being stung to death by a swarm of bees gone bonkers.
But last week as I carted some vegetable trimmings out to the compost bin under the avocado tree in our backyard, I noticed a mass of honey bees on the limb right above me. And I thought two things: 1. I can’t let them stay here. 2. Bee colony collapse is a very real problem, and these little guys are at risk. So leave your can of bug spray in your holster, sister. (Given that there was a mass of tiny, venom-deliverance systems hovering just over my head, a third thing crossed my mind, a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Run away! Run away!”)
I got in touch with a bee rescue outfit that sent over an apiarist, who could quickly tell from the bees’ behavior how long they’d been on that branch, what their mental state was and what they’d likely do next. I was impressed. While she suited up, I ducked back into the house, just in case things went wrong. Oh-so-carefully she moved the mass of bees–with their queen–into the bee retrieving box she’d brought and set it on a ladder under their chosen spot, so that the rest of the colony could find their peeps when they returned at the end of the day. That night, she came back for the box o’ bees. As she set the box in the car and prepared to leave, she told me that her organization names the queen of each colony for the household where they collect it, so this colony’s queen would be called Carol. Awesome. I had seen her seal up the box before moving it, but still, as she drove away I thought about the time my aunt undressed while driving a car when she realized there was a bee in her blouse and she just didn’t have time to pull over. I hoped that my new apiarist friend wouldn’t have that problem while navigating the LA Freeway system.
It was instructive having them here, but I like bees better when they’re just passing through. They’re welcome to take all the nectar from my plants that they want, as long as they don’t hang out, looking for a place to live.
In honor of Queen Carol and her colony, I’m going to share with you one of the fastest, easiest and tastiest desserts ever:
Just select your favorite cheese–or cheeses–and your favorite honey and enjoy them together. Either dip a bite of cheese into the honey or drizzle the honey onto the cheese. Serve some toasted walnuts, pecans or almonds alongside if you wish. It’s a piece of cake, only better.