Maggie continues her story of beekeeping in China . . .
[line] April 2, 2012
It is 1 pm and sunny, time again to feed some bees. Yang Qiong, Angel, and I gather our supplies, and Li picks us up in her big, brown truck. I push both jugs of sugar water into the truck and strap in beside them.
It’s fifteen minutes to Wang Chi Ka, the apiary outside of town. We unload the truck and unlock the gate. Yang Qiong and I remove the winter wraps while Li tries to light the smoker with a cigarette. She succeeds. Angel pumps the bellows with great enthusiasm, chasing the airborne bees around the yard while Li looks on with amusement.
None of these three has had any previous experience beekeeping, but they are now integral parts of the Shangri-la bee team. Yang Qiong navigates our language barrier with unfailing exuberance, and she works earnestly to learn the purpose of our beekeeping tasks. Today, she is working on powdered sugar shakes as I sort through frames of bees.
When we spot healthy larvae, Yang Qiong cries out with delight. “Ah! So fat baby!” she says. We find sacbrood in the second colony. Yang Qiong calls it “ugly baby.” Li teaches me to say “a bee has stung me” in Chinese, and though I can’t seem to master the tones, when Angel yelps and pulls off her gloves, I know exactly what has happened.
We are a rag-tag crew. The rag-taggest. But somehow we manage, and beekeeping becomes our means of communication. As we pour sugar, start fires, and check bees, I begin to understand that language is important to communicate, but language can be made of many things besides words.