National Geographic : 1993 May
solely to mate with a virgin queen in a mid air courtship. "Then the drone dies and falls out of the sky like a dive-bomber," explains beekeep er Lucille Hoffman. "The ones who don't mate stay alive until fall, and then they're evicted. The workers pitch them out the door and won't let them back in. You kind of feel sorry for them, but that's life." Lucille and her mother, Louise Gentry, both of Oakdale, are among the few wom en in migratory beekeeping. "Guys say I'm the cause of a lot of arguments with their wives," says Louise, "because most of the wives don't go out and help." The pair are also among a small group of professionals who specialize in raising queen bees, a complicated process most beekeepers don't bother with. For six dol lars a queen, packed in a little cage, can be mailed to you. Y EARLY MARCH the almond bloom has come and gone, and the buds on the cherry trees are ready to burst. It is time to move bees. The Cal-Minn bees have been pol linating an almond orchard a few miles north of Oakdale. A fragrant frost of white petals covers the orchard floor when Joe Tweedy, Jeff Anderson, and hired hands Chris Slater and Dave Stom berg pull up with three trucks. It is 5:30 p.m., late enough so most bees are back in their hives for the night. Beekeepers don't move their hives in the middle of the day because too many bees would end up homeless. We park the 18-wheeler at the edge of the orchard and hop into two smaller trucks, each pulling a forklift on a trailer. Jeff and Dave disappear in one direction; Joe, Chris, and I head in another, driving Moving out before winter moves in, Dave Hackenberg trucks his bees from Pennsyl vania to Florida's citrus groves, where the bees will feed and multiply. Six months later hell head north again to pollinate crops and make honey, earning a modest living. "How do I convince my boy in college to do this when he gets job offers for $35,000 a year?" he says.