When I analyze my beekeeping time—the hours I actually spend in the apiary—I estimate fully 40% is spent looking for my hive tool. You probably believe that’s an exaggeration, but I think not.
I start the day reminding myself not to lose the damn thing and I don’t—not for at least fifteen minutes. But then I get all wrapped up in the moment, thinking, assessing, planning. Before you know it, I reach for the hive tool but it’s not there.
Now, my favorite place for all of life’s little treasures is my right rear pocket. Everything goes there, including the hive tool. Unfortunately the pocket is way too shallow for such service, so the tool invariably falls out. Still, I cannot break the habit. I’m programmed and everything goes there.
So I start searching the ground. I pat down my other pockets. I retrace my steps back to the house. When that doesn’t pan out, I begin re-opening hives. I get down and look beneath the hive stands. I survey the weeds and the grass, I re-pat my pockets.
Finally I go looking for my husband. He sees me coming with a certain look on my face and before I even ask the question, he says, “No. I haven’t seen it.” How annoying.
“But I had it just five minutes ago,” I complain. “And now it’s gone!” Whenever I say that word it reminds me of the song Gone by John Hiatt: “Gone like a Nixon file, gone, gone away.”
So I wonder aimlessly around the yard, tracing my route over and over. Pretty soon I’m looking in places I haven’t been for weeks. Seriously, it had to go somewhere, right?
Today after I spent an hour circling like a disabled airplane, I spent another hour rehashing the hive tool’s final moments. It pried open a box and separated a few frames. It bent the metal tab on a queen cage and forced the feed can from a shipping crate. It flipped a slug from my shoe. The last thing I remember: it got wiped with a wet rag—a rag I didn’t lose.
My husband keeps telling me to paint the hive tool pink. He has this idea because once about six years ago in a fit of annoyance, I spray-painted an ax pink. Pink because it was the only color in the garage—a color that’s always available because no one ever uses it. In any case, I haven’t lost the ax since.
So today after I finally found the hive tool lying in the grass about ten feet from the hive (I swear I did not go there) I considered the pink paint. But alas, I couldn’t do it. I’m sorry, but I just can’t be a beekeeper who uses pink hive tools. What would people think? Worse, what would the bees think? Certainly they’d sting me to death for less.
So I did the next best thing; I wrapped the hive tool with pink survey ribbon. Now, I know this is going to annoy me no end, all those dangly ends slipping down between my fingers and getting caught between the frames. The ends will stick to the propolis that sticks to my hands and I will be moaning and groaning and invented new words. But that’s a problem for another day. For now at least, I know exactly where my hive tool is.