The Hive

The Hive

'Genetic science one day will decide all that lives, all that survives, and all that is created.'


I will upload the next chapter soon, please cooment if you think it is worth me carrying on.

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1. Chapter 1

‘It took over 400 million  years for evolution to create for us a beautiful canvas of living colour, it will  take unregulated genetic scientists less than 200 years  to  respray it  metallic grey...’           J. Wilson, The Origin Of Species - Destroyed By Science.

 

Jed walked away from the hive and sat down on the old spalted silver birch stump. It was around four o’clock and the afternoon sun was still shinning brightly through the branches of the old horse chestnut tree; warm orange beams broke through the smoked filled air and settled gently on the tall uncut grass. For a few seconds Jed just sat there, mesmerised, as he watched the honey bees hovering in the smoked filled air, anxiously trying to return to the sanctuary of their hive. Unzipping the mesh hood of his bee suit he forced it over his thinning grey hair, wiping a thick layer of sweat from his ageing brow as he did so. He rested the smoker to one side of the stump,  squeezing the bellows as he did so, allowing one last puff of grey smoke to rise up and dance through the beams of sunlight. Just next to Jed’s apiary was a large corn field, and for a moment Jed watched as the summer breeze created waves in the long corn like an ocean storm. Rubbing his white beard, scattered with tufts of grey, he announced, ‘Maisie, autumn is coming, those poor drones wont have long left.’

Maisie who was patiently sunning herself by the tree did not move, or even look up back in his direction, she just  wagged her tail politely in response to her master’s voice.

Masie was a Border Collie Labrador cross, and a very intelligent, self-sufficient dog. She had been known on occasion to open her food container and help herself to an over generous dinner should Jed be home too late from giving one of his bee keeping lectures, or dozed off in front of the fire after one large whisky too many. She was the standard height of a Border Collie, with a thin frame and  very shiny black coat and long white socks, or white hunters as Jed would refer to them. Her black and white ears gently draped over her head, and when she ran they would flap in the wind, flashing like a beacon. Jed had got Maisie from the local rescue centre around four years before, after some advice from his local doctor. The doctor felt it would help Jed to recover from the depression he was still suffering with after his wife, Anna, had died a year before. ‘Get a pet' he said, 'something to get you up in the morning, better than all them blasted pills I keep giving you”. He explained to Jed  that he was a patron for the local animal sanctuary, and that Jed  would be better off going there to get a dog than from some puppy farm.

So he did just that, and got Maisie. Jed was also an avid beekeeper, he had kept bees nearly all of his life, as had his father. After his wife’s death, Jed immersed himself even more into beekeeping with an almost fanatical enthusiasm. He now owned twelve full colonies and four nukes; he had also dedicated the last four years to studying their social behaviour, queen rearing and bee breeding. Jed had published three academic papers and one book focusing on honey bee psychology, the queen’s behaviour and its impact upon the survival of the colony. It was a perfect opportunity for Jed to try and remove himself from the overwhelming grief that he was suffering after his beloved wife’s sudden death.

Before Jed decided to expand his hives he would just sit, numbed by grief, starring into the garden not able to move. He could not return to work, he could barely function. Even feeding himself and getting out of bed was a struggle. He lost three stone in weight and with  his disheveled  hair style and unkempt beard he looked more  like an old beggar than  a university lecturer.  For fifteen years Jed had lectured psychology  at the local university in the City of Canterbury; he was highly respected in his field, having studied at Oxford and dedicating much of his research to the evolution of human behaviour. He still lived in the same cottage that he had bought with his wife fifteen years earlier, and rarely went out other than to see his publisher, lecture at the honey bee organization and at the local agricultural college. He tried not to venture out into 'that bad world' as he would put it, to the extent that he kept shopping trips to a minimum by buying as much as possible so that he would not have to go out again for many weeks. But for some reason, he still enjoyed the company of some of the locals. The old man next door would often spend an hour or so in the summer evenings leaning against his fence, spreading local gossip and complaining about the state of the country. Jed was also very fond of Shaun, the local postman. He started delivering his post shortly after his wife had died. Although Jed would never admit it, he always looked forward to seeing him. Routine was a good thing for Jed, and Shaun had become a main part of that routine. Shaun  was also very intelligent, highly intelligent in fact and often helped to wet Jed’s intellectual appetite; Jed always questioned why he was just a postman. 'I'm not as intelligent as you think I am', he would say 'I just like to read and listen to Radio 4 in my van, that's the finest education a man can ever get if you ask me.' Shaun would often crack jokes and pass the time away asking questions about psychology and the bees; he was always interested in the bees and Jed’s new queens.  Shaun would often joke about how he was once married, but lost her when she had run off with his best friend from work.  Jed never knew if this was true or not, and never really felt he could delve any deeper into the subject, but nonetheless Shaun was a distraction for Jed, a distraction he enjoyed very much.  



Maisie heard the gate chain rattle; she looked up and wagged her tail as Shaun started to walk along the old brick path towards the apiary at the bottom of the garden. Jed followed her gaze and squinted as he looked into the bright light trying to focus on the silhouetted man walking down the path. He could not focus easily as the sun was hurting his eyes, but even so, Jed easily worked out that the blurred figure, warped by the sun’s rays, was Shaun. His shadow stretched before him, exaggerating his large fuzzy hair, stretching along the path looking like a giant Busby Guard on parade.

'Good afternoon you two, it's only me' he called as he walked toward them swinging his large red bag off of his shoulder as he went, throwing it onto an old pile of decaying logs before he dropped onto the floor in the long grass next to Maisie.  'How's it going Jed?' He asked as he stroked Maisie gently on the head.  

'Can't grumble, the weather held out so I have managed to go through four hives' Jed replied as he watched Shaun hypnotizing Maisie by rubbing his middle finger gently over her head and down the back of her neck.  They discussed the weather, and then how they both hated how the standard of driving had degenerated over the years, a subject they often digressed to. After a while, Shaun moved the conversation onto the honey bees and how Jed's newly reared queen was fairing up.

'How's the new queen then Jed, any swarms from her hive this year?'

'She is panning out a dream, a full season and not one swarm, the colony have not made a single queen cell', Jed replied, as he stretched across and grabbed the large wooden tool box just left of where he was sitting.

'How do you know it is not just one of those things?' asked Shaun still rubbing Maisie.

Jed lent forward and whispered to Shaun, as if he was in an old spy movie, 'Because this is the third queen I have reared, and I now have three colonies not producing any queen cells. I have actually created the non-swarming hive; all I need to do now is to see if  they make a new queen when she gets old. Not that it matters if they don’t, as I can just pop in a new one.’'

'And when will you know if they do?' Shaun asked.

'In the next few years I suppose, queens can live up to five years, so it may be a little wait.'

Shaun looked disappointed. 'I can’t wait that long', he said, chuckling under his breath.  

Jed removed the rusty brass catch on the large wooden box, and removed a small red thermos flask.

'Coffee?'

'Don't mind if I do.'

They filled two large stainless steel cups with strong black coffee, and drank slowly in silence, watching the bees gradually return to their hives and the trees’ shadows growing longer as the sun gradually slipped behind the valley. About twenty minutes past before they spoke again;  it seemed like paradise just listening to the birds singing and the chorus of pheasants calling out their warnings in turn, their ‘korr-kok’ sounds echoed around the valley, like a  Mexican wave.

'Autumn soon' Shaun announced breaking the comfortable silence. Jed smiled and looked at Maisie, who seemed to smile back as if she understood that they had already had this conversation before Shaun had arrived.

'Yes' replied Jed,' the drones will be getting kicked out soon,' he laughed and winked at Maisie.

'I best be off, got to get the van back before the yard shuts.' Shaun handed Jed two letters, one was his royalty cheque, from a book he wrote many years before, but the other was marked confidential and written in a hand that he did not recognise.

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