Friday, April 18, 2014

Bringing Home the Bees

    I drove down to Redding on Monday and came back with 550 shipping cages full of bees. Estimating about 14,000 bees in each of 250 four pound package and 10,500 bees in each of 300 three pound packages that is approximately 6, 600,000 bees. That was only the first trip. I will go down again near the end of the month and bring back another load of package bees.  There won't be quite as many bees in the second load as those will all be three pound packages. We were able to get the bees back in very good shape thanks to the help of a number of friends and some fortunate weather. Its nice to have friends, but I have to thank God for the weather. The package bees travel better if the weather is cooler so hot weather is a serious concern.

    David Oberstadt, a friend from church, came with me to help drive. I don't have the stamina to drive 635 miles non-stop by myself. On the return trip, we can only stop for gas or very briefly to change drivers.  Any time we stop and the airflow over the bees stops, the load starts to heat up. Once the bees are loaded into the trailer we have to keep moving as much as possible.  David's other critical skill is the ability to back a trailer. Now that I own a truck, that is on my list of things I need to learn this year.

     We stopped by Forest Grove, Oregon on the way down and picked up two grand daughters to bring on the trip, Chloe and Hannah Kang.  Chloe got some beekeeping experience this past year so she qualifies for the official beekeeping title of "newbee".  Her younger sister, Hannah, is still a wannabe beekeeper. Since they are home schooled I thought this might qualify as a biology field trip.

    We had a few minor delays on the trip down and we learned a few things about my new truck.  First of all, we learned that the fuel gauge is very heavily skewed to one side. That is when the gauge reads half a tank, it really means a quarter of a tank.  When the gauge reads a quarter tank, it really means about 2 gallons left in the 26 gallon tank. By my math that comes to one thirteenth rather than one fourth.  That isn't a big deal once you have that important bit of knowledge. It would have been a huge deal if we hadn't figured it out on the way down. As you might imagine, there was a little bit of a hike involved in the learning process. Fortunately, we had only just passed a freeway exit with a gas station. In addition to learning about my quirky fuel gauge, I also learned how to prime the fuel pump on my diesel truck.

    The second thing we learned about the truck was that the speedometer is very unreliable.  Less than halfway down to Redding, the speedometer pegged out at 120 MPH and stayed there for a good part of the trip. We had to estimate our speed as best we could based on the other traffic and the mile markers along the side of the road. I'm taking it back to the dealer on Monday so they can fix the speedometer.  Other than those glitches, the trip went very well.
A photo of the lunar eclipse taken with my iPhone

    We reached Redding at about 11:30 pm.  After checking into the motel, I went back out to the truck and learned that we were having a lunar eclipse at that very moment.  David, who apparently reads a great deal and has a wonderful memory, had read an article about the fact that in the year 2014 there would be lunar eclipses on all of the major Jewish Holidays. Apparently, in addition to being my birthday, my mother's birthday, and two grand children's birthday, April 14, 2014 was the start of Passover as well.

David Oberstadt helped unload the empty shipping cages we had returned

Chloe and Hannah are helping here by holding open the trailer door.

Steve Park, halfway through loading our bees.

Chloe and Hannah in the warehouse with the bees

    Loading the bees went very well.  We reached Steve Park Apiaries in Palo Cedro just a few minutes after 7:00 am.  We left with a fully loaded trailer of bees (plus an additional 40 packages in the bed of the truck) at 8;21 am.  Chloe and Hannah got to see some very interesting things. I got to show Chloe the queen incubator where they were candling queen cells in preparation for installing the cells into mating nuts.

Chloe standing next to the queen incubator

Cutting queen cells off the rack

Candling queen cells

   The trip back was relatively uneventful, a good thing when one is transporting a perishable cargo. The main stress I felt on the way home was trying to get through Portland before their rush hour. We had to reach Portland by about 3:30 pm or face a serious risk of being stuck in traffic.  This task would have been much simpler with a working speedometer. We succeeded in getting to Portland by 3:30 pm but we still had a few minor traffic problems. None of the delays were of long duration and the ordeal was lessoned by the fact that the temperature was only 62. I would have been much more worried if it had been a hot day.
Elder Payne vacuuming hitchhikers off the packages.

Elder Stack moving packages with Daniel Sullivan in the background
My co driver David, holding a three pound package of bees.

    We reached the Beez Neez at about 8:00 pm, where a willing crew of volunteers waited to help unload our cargo. The LDS missionaries are always asking me for opportunities to do service.  A few years back we started letting them help us unload the packages. Then we give them a "Bee Team" tee shirts as a souvenir. Many hands do make light work.  The  "colorful" character behind Elder Stack is my SeaFair Pirate friend, Daniel Sullivan. All of the packages were unloaded, hitchhiker bees vacuumed off, and the roll up door closed by about 10:30 pm. I really have to thank my friend and employee Quentin for our current level of efficiency. I was actually home in bed before 11:00 pm.



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