Wendyl Nissen

Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: To bee or not to bee

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The sting's in the tail, discovers Wendyl Nissen on her new buzz.

If you want to have fruit, you've got to have bees. Photo / Thinkstock
If you want to have fruit, you've got to have bees. Photo / Thinkstock

The plum tree made me do it. I planted it five years ago, along with two feijoas, aiming to have an abundance of fruit every year. So far the plum tree has produced a total of six plums and the feijoas five fruit.

"It's the bees," said a friend who had the misfortune to be standing on the path next to the plum tree as I engaged in a rant about only three green plums hanging on the tree, all the time well aware that my negative energy directed towards the plum tree probably wasn't helping.

"There aren't any wild ones anymore because of the varroa mite, so you have to rely on someone keeping bees to get fruit."

I knew all this and had been to a course about bee-keeping but found it all a bit overwhelming and gave up. But now, for the sake of some plums, I had to have them. I left my friend and went straight inside, where I googled "rent beehives".

That afternoon a nice man came around and pronounced our humble home excellent for bee-keeping.

And before I knew it there they were.

Two large hives of bees sitting in the back garden giving off a gentle, soothing buzz.

"Couldn't be easier," I said to my husband as we sipped a congratulatory glass of wine on the back deck and watched our busy bees.

He paused momentarily from delivering what was becoming a rather tiresome string of bee puns.

"What's that?" said my husband pointing at my feet.

"It appears to be a dying bee," I said.

"Un-bee-lievable," he said.

Then I noticed the rest. All around us bees with very tiny wings were writhing on the ground doing a very good impression of being in their death throes.

Had I been the type of gardener who sprays insecticide around I might have wondered if I had just killed two hives of bees. But I'm not. I'm organic and have even stopped using fly spray in the house, relying on a host of mint plants to repel them, which is marginally successful.

I rushed inside for the bee book I had bought when I thought I was about to become a bee-keeper. It told me that when hives are disturbed, as ours had been, worker bees fly out and roll around on the ground releasing scent so that other bees can find their way back to their new home.

As I investigated the scenting bees, our daughter came home from a sleep-over and gasped in horror.

"No one told me we were getting bees!"

She's right. I hadn't.

I led her outside and talked in calming tones about the importance of pollination, the absence of wild bees, the wonderful honey and slowly moved her closer to the steady hum of the two hives.

"And contrary to popular belief, they won't harm you unless you disrupt the hive or step on them," I continued and, to prove the point, I went to stand between the hives as the bees buzzed around me completely disinterested.

"Well, I suppose it's a good idea," she said, proving nature and nurture can work together when it comes to raising a greeny.

At that moment I felt a sharp pang on the side of my foot.

"Help!" I screamed, causing my husband to leap over the table and come to my aid, so piercing was my alarm signal.

"Are they attacking?" he said, rather unhelpfully, scaring the hell out of our daughter.

I reached down and plucked out a rather large bee stinger, as I had been taught to do at my bee-keeping session.

"It hurts!" I wailed like a five-year-old, which is the age I was when I last got stung by a bee.

"Bee seeing you," said my husband as he and our daughter disappeared inside.

- Herald on Sunday

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