I‘ve been feeling guilty about something for over a year. The truth is this: I completely scared off a new beekeeper . . . or rather her husband. While I normally go out of my way to encourage new beekeepers, in this case, I snuffed one out before she even got started.
The husband in question runs a local packing and shipping business where I have a private mailbox. For years he has been fascinated by the things that arrive in my name: multiple big and heavy boxes–some with bees printed on the outside, catalogs with bees on the cover, and journals containing color photos of bees and hives and flowers. Even queens have made an occasional appearance. Time after time he has offered to carry these things to my truck, plying me with questions the entire time.
He has asked a zillion things and I have answered. I have given him honey three or four different times. He has told me that his wife wants to keep bees and that he was going to buy her a beginner kit for Christmas, then her birthday, then her anniversary . . . but the occasion never quite arrived.
Then came the day it all ended. I had given him a number of bee catalogs and on this particular day he had one opened to a page of bee suits. He said, “Do they stay white like that? Can you wash them?”
I laughed and said something to the effect that you could wash them till kingdom come but they never come clean. In fact, I said, mine looks really disgusting.
And that was it. He never asked another question. He never again mentioned getting bees for his wife. He stopped asking what flowers the bees were pollinating, and never again asked for honey. I killed all desire for bees by saying my bee suit was disgusting.
I feel really, really bad about this, but is it my fault? He is one of those people who is immaculately groomed with a spotlessly clean white truck, a perfectly ironed shirt, and impeccably cut hair. So should I have known this was the wrong thing to say? Should I have seen the writing on the wall? I can’t imagine keeping bees without getting a tad messy now and again, but that’s one reason for a bee suit, is it not?
I still have my private mailbox, and I still see this man about once a week. I sign for my boxes and he hands them over without a word. I’ve often wished his wife would show up at the store so I could invite her to the apiary. But she doesn’t, and I have never even met her. Too bad.
I’ve tried to forget the whole thing, but I’m reminded of it every time I climb into my bee suit which is, by the way, truly disgusting.