A thirty minute drive through dark country lanes, some scary oncoming traffic moments and finally, heart racing and white of knuckle, I arrive at The Bull public house for a winter meeting of the Mid Kent Bee-keeping association.
I was a bit late, so I walked in midway through a talk being given by Brian (a retired bee-keeper/lecturer) about how to breed queens.
After checking I hadn't inadvertently been transported to a training evening at the Vauxhall Tavern and a trip to the bar (served by a cachexic youth, pink tracksuit chavette in attendance on a bar stool) I settled down to what I hoped was the tail end of a short lecture on bee-keeping techniques.
Two hours later, and I felt like a Vietnam Vet who had seen too much. Looking around the room I realised I was not the only one.
What did I learn? I now know that you can 'De-queen' a hive (or colony) and then put in a few young larva or eggs from another colony and the bees will bring them up as queens.
I found out that you need to remove these immature queens before they hatch or else the first one out will kill the rest.
Maybe this is where we get out deep rooted cultural fear of 'the men in white coats'. Certainly I'm going to be checking every hoody that walks past me for a tell-tale veil attachment.
I also found out that 'de-queen' is a euphemism for 'kill'.
In fact it turns out that bee keeping is all about death. Death and manipulation. Maybe this is where we get out deep rooted cultural fear of 'the men in white coats'. Certainly I'm going to be checking every hoody that walks past me for a tell-tale veil attachment.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Mid Kent bee keepers are in any way creepy (certainly not within earshot of any of the association's hives) - but ask yourself this; what hobby gives you dominion over hundreds of thousands of willing servants. Servants whose entire existence is dedicated to the production of a substance that will either be sold by the jar for £3.50 in a B road lay-by or spread on toast by a grizzled country wife entertaining thoughts of escape whilst her husband plots the long term genetic manipulation of an entire species. OK - I would go so far as to say they're creepy (I've checked, no hives in my immediate vicinity)
Once the talk was over, I watched the various officials of the association (treasurer, secretaries etc) vie with one another to prove that they all knew more (or had more to offer) than Brian. This strange posturing was all done in a strangely passive-aggressive way: "Now, I am sure that Brian would probably know better but..."
Brian, I am happy to report, took all these challenges to his superiority with grace. Then he destroyed the pretenders to his throne with a couple of well chosen bee-related put downs.
Having effectively de-queened the room, he took up residence at the bar and drank his own body weight in real ale. I didn't see any evidence of pollination at this point.
The most vociferous of his opponents left soon after with half a dozen members of the association to go and hang of the branches of a near by tree, before looking for a chimney to make a permanent home in.
Or not. Actually they called the raffle and all went home. You can, after all, take bee analogies to far.*
*I would also like to take credit for not using the phrase 'sting in the tale'. Oh. Bugger.
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