bee stories beekeepers miscellaneous musings

Beekeeping and the erosion of English

I am very organized, so I went into this job with complete confidence.

It was simple. I wanted to replace the queen in my busiest hive. I couldn’t find her the first two times I searched, so I kept the replacement queen in a small nuc. But yesterday I found the old queen and plucked her out of the busy hive. Today I planned to introduce the new one. Piece of cake.

I was very careful not to harm the new queen. I found her among the bees in the nuc, snatched her up with the queen catcher, and carried her back to the shed where it was warm and dry. A two-minute job.

The queen muff and cage were waiting on the potting bench. I checked the cork end of the cage and put everything inside the muff. I dropped her into the cage with no trouble at all. I closed the cage very carefully so I wouldn’t harm her with the edge of the screen. Nothing to it.

I withdrew the cage from the muff. She was a big, healthy carniolan with lots of energy. I set the cage on the potting bench while I collected my hive tools. Easy as pie.

On my way out the door, I grabbed the cage . . . but it was empty! I said words that began with “What the.”

In a panic I looked around. I couldn’t figure it out. She vanished without a trace. I examined the cage and found the cork was in place but I’d failed to check the candy end. The candy was gone. On the shelf where I keep cages were ants. This time I muttered something that included the word “mother.”

Then I saw her—scurrying up the wall behind the potting bench. But the wall is a pegboard thingy with hundreds of holes in it. If one of those holes swallowed her up, it would be one expensive piece of pegboard. I pleaded as I scrambled, “Pull-ease queenie, don’t go in the [expletive deleted] holes!

In a flash I picked her off the wall, plugged the candy end of the cage, and put everything back in the muff. But for the life of me, I couldn’t get her back in the cage. It seems she had learned about cages and was having none of it. I struggled for a long time. I was really afraid of hurting her and totally annoyed at the same time. I finally got her in just as the storm I was trying to avoid arrived in buckets. The two-minute job was now thirty. More colorful words.

In spite of the rain, I finally got queenie installed. Since there’s a cork at each end, I’ll have to go back and release her by hand. In the meantime I’ve been wondering . . . Did I really cuss this much before I became a beekeeper? Is it possible that bee venom causes linguistic atrophy?

Yes . . . I think maybe it does. It’s those *!@#$* bees!



  • Priceless. Been there, done that….well, not there exactly but certainly in the neighborhood. Thanks for making my night. 🙂


  • I’m picking up on a possible trend. The “what the” series of beekeeping tales. I may have to purchase a mated queen for a split this summer. So stay tuned.

  • Rusty, you might consider next time to just introduce three nuc frames with new workers and new queen smack in the middle of the old hive. They’ll take her without a glitch. Just make sure that the old one has been gone from the colony for at least a day, at most 3 days. No need to catch, cage, reopen, release and pray that they don’t kill her.

    Every time something like this has happened to me I’ve been lucky to have it happen to a newly mated queen, who was all to happy to fly back to her mating nuc.

  • In school and elsewhere, I always heard that the use of swear words would unmask one as an obviously uneducated person, unable to find more acceptable words to express oneself. Well, DRAT THAT!!! The use of some not-particularly-well-chosen cuss words at critical times can be a satisfying stress and anger management tool! They exist for a reason, USE THEM LIBERALLY when the situation calls for it.

    • I’ve heard that from plenty of people, but I can’t agree. Yes, excessive swearing is lazy, so expletives should be used sparingly; but like any other word, they are part of the English language and they have their place. I suspect that people who feel that way are simply parroting what they’ve been told all their lives — expletives are “bad words.”

      An expletive is an expression of immediate, powerful emotion that is not dependent on context. It may even *have* context, and carry a separate meaning that could be as easily conveyed as a more “appropriate” word, but it adds a second meaning — that emotional punch that other words simply cannot properly convey. That’s why they exist and that’s why they are sometimes the only right word to use.

      That said, people should stop using expletives as punctuation or automatic adjectives that carry no additional meaning, in an effort to decorate every sentence with at least three of them just because. That’s just lazy, people.

  • I enjoyed your story Rusty and passed it to two of our children who are in Oxford studying and working. This is the place where the ‘right’ type of English is supposed to be spoken…. I’m sure it will make them laugh too. I think that some kinds of swearing can be interpreted as prayers by the Great Interpreter when push comes to shove.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.