What do you get when you mix one totally exhausted and overwhelmed beekeeper/owner operator, a honey house garage door left wide open for 14 hours on a sunny Sunday, and many many neighbors in a small conservative town? Well, you get the 2014 Everson Beepocalype!
On Labor Day weekend this year, I packed up my truck with two markets worth of tents, tables, honey, and high hopes for a great day, as well as my suitcase to go home to Michigan for a week to attend my cousin Abagail's wedding and relax with family on a red eye flight out of seattle after the long day of driving, managing, and selling. I got my first indication that I'd messed up around 9pm that evening, when a friend who was helping me by dropping off my market supplies back in my garage(the "honey house") texted me saying I'd left the garage door open to the alleyway of my downtown everson house and it was "pretty buzzy" in there with bees. At the time, all I could think about was that I'd left honey drippings on the floor and stuff scattered about in disarray and I was was sorry anyone had to see it a mess.
The second indicator that I'd messed up came at about 11:30 pm on Sunday, with an urgent and terse email message from the homeowner (also a neighbor) that there was an emergency and I was to contact them immediately.
Oh shit. This likely means some wild neighborhood bees showed up for a feeding frenzy and my neighbors are pissed off.
Let me take a minute to explain to you what happens this time of year: most of the available nectar and pollen sources for western Washington honeybees has all but dried up and disappeared. Robbing of hives by honeybees, yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps of any undefended honey is common, and any honey or sugary treat will likely be devoured rather quickly. What I had done is what many beekeepers would say is a "worst case scenario". I had three full deep boxes of uncovered honey, likely weighing almost 200 lbs, as well as honey comb ready to be cut, a sticky extractor and decapping table, and sticky honey surfaces all around the room......and I left the damn door open for 14 hours on a hot sunny day. Every single wild honeybee, domesticated honeybee, and likely all the other hangers-on like yellow jackets showed up for what must have been the score of the century. All you can eat honey for everyone! And the word likely spread quickly, from bee to bee and from hive to hive. heres a quick view of some bees trying to get in on Monday morning around 9 am...way before the masses showed up!
Sooooo, you can imagine what my neighbors must have been thinking. Likely something along the lines of bug bombing the whole place, calling the fire department, wondering if this was the actual second coming, and other panicked hysteria. Even for a seasoned beekeeper, the sight of all hiderobbing bees would be intimidating.
Ill spare you the details of how my flight was postponed in Chicago airport for two days, with me fielding calls from my property manager, my neighbors, the homeowner, and my roommates over how to shut this event down and stop the bees from attacking my garage. Stressful doesn't even come close to being an adequate word to describe what was happening to me, sitting on the floor of an airport after being up for over 30 hrs and unable to do anything myself to make the problem go away.
finally at the last moment before I thought the landlord was gonna bomb the whole thing and ruin tens of thousands of dollars of honey processing equipment and packaging and honey, I came up with what I hoped would be a quick fix. My dear roommates had been fielding all the angry neighbors and landlord complaints as well as having to open the door every time someone came by to talk about it and now hey had to do the dirty work that I should've been there to do. I told them to "seal the whole garage up, quarantine like its Ebola"!!!!!!!! They got huge prices of painters plastic and duct taped over all the doors, windows, and openings so that the smell of the honey and all entrances to the place were sealed off.
Here's the two of them in action:
We got the bees to calm down after a day or so, and all of the neighbors are back to normal, but I'm out 200 lbs if honey and likely my entire honeycomb crop for the year. So that kinda sums up why we've been low on honey for markets this month.