Friday evening found me crowded into a shed with a motley group of individuals. The shed was attached to the back of a slant-roofed little house tucked into a steep hillside a few miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska. The crowd included everything from grey-haired retirees to stay-at-home moms to workers in grimy Carhartts, and even a few professional transporters like myself. Chatter wandered between the heavy snow load, predictions of when the first willow blooms would be out, and speculation about whether the coming summer would be as poor for pollen collection as the last one was.
At the back of the shed, an elderly gentleman with wild white hair handed out buzzing cages; each sturdy 4 inch by 16 inch by 12 inch enclosure contained a queen and roughly 5,000 of her subjects, totaling 4 lbs of bees. (Bees are sold by weight rather than number for reasons of expediency.) This particular bee dealer is the only one in Fairbanks, supplying hundreds of backyard beekeepers in the area.
I’ve been transporting bees for over a decade now, but rumor has it this will be the bee dealer’s last year. That may mean the end of my yearly bee run, or it may mean a much lengthier run down to Delta Junction or Anchorage to meet another dealer. For now, I collect 8 lbs of bees, wrap their cages in my jacket, and climb up a crude staircase to the dealer’s parking area. Now comes the fun part.