> What are the chances? August 23 2011

Last week, Jeff took a day off work so we could drive around Middle Tennessee and do some work on some of our hives.

It was a long, hot day, which finally ended on Sneed Road, where we have two hives in separate locations.

After the last one, we went through a gate on a horse paddock, collapsed in the car, drank our last drops of water and got a mile down the road when I saw it. 

It was climbing up the side of Jeff's driver's seat, slowly making its way to the top, near his head. I stared for a second or two, wondering (hoping) I was wrong. But I wasn't. 

"Um, Jeff, there's a queen bee crawling up your seat."


I don't know if he thought I was kidding or mistaken, but he didn't believe me. I scooped it onto a white coffee filter (doesn't everyone have those lying around their pick-up trucks?) and showed him. She was a beautiful, almost all-yellow Italian queen bee.

So, now the question:  Which hive did it come from?

We pulled over and retraced our steps. Sometimes we wear protective suits and sometimes we don't — depending on the hive. Jeff had gotten in the truck once with his suit on, just to move it a little ways, so we figured the bee had gotten in then.

So, we took a guess, and hoped it was right. Back through the gates, into the paddock, with a queen bee wrapped in a coffee filter. I gently lifted the lid, too tired to bother with protective clothing, and dropped her on a top frame. She disappeared inside the darkness of the hive, and I quietly hoped I was putting her back in the right kingdom. If this was the wrong hive, she would be killed by the existing queen, and another of our hives would be queenless.

We've laughed about this a good bit. I mean, what are the chances of that? We struggle sometimes to even find the queen bee, and then for her to wind up crawling around in our truck seemed impossible.

A week later, I checked on all the same hives, and was pleased to find healthy, mature queen bees in all the hives. So, we put her back in the right place. It was really a lucky guess, a stab in the dark motivated by tiredness and the proximity of the last hive we visited.

Still, it was a fascinating look into the odds of something happening, the enigma of chance. There are about 50,000 honeybees in a single, healthy colony in the middle of summer. And the mother of all of them — the one bee needed to lay eggs and lead the hive — ended up in our pick-up truck.

Instead of beekeeping last week, maybe we should have played the lottery.