On Saturday morning we had a lovely surprise: a call from the post office to inform us that our bees had arrived! We jumped in the car and headed right over--I couldn't wait to bring them home and show them their garden and the lovely houses we had prepared for them.

It's best to hive them in the cool of early evening, but by seven o'clock a rumbly batch of thunderstorms had moved in. We literally installed them in moments snatched between downpours. And notice my brave bee charmer, sans gloves or veil!

The first step is to remove the queen's cage. She's surrounded by her loyal subjects, all trying desperately to get her out, but it's not until you remove the tiny cork at the end of her cage that the bees are able to eat through the fondant plug and release her. Our job is merely to nestle the cage between two empty frames in the hive: the bees do the rest.

We each took a package to hive, and while Philip's went in with perfect calmness and decorum (I told you he was a bee charmer), mine got rather feisty. Perhaps it was the whole unceremoniousness of the thing--Philip reminded me how little I'd like being shaken and dumped into a new house of my own. Or maybe it's just that wild Tudor blood in Queen Bess' hive rearing its head...

Yes, I name my bees. Or, at least, I name my queens. Even I admit to being stumped by the naming of tens of thousands of bees. But the monarch in the hive pictured is Good Queen Bess. And the queen of the other hive is Mary Mac--she is named for my grandmother's sister, the oldest of five indomitable women, and she was, in every sense of the word, 'the queen bee' of the family. Here I'm pouring sugar syrup into the hive top feeder to sustain the bees and to give them a good start while they are setting up their colony.

The Kingdoms of Queen Mary Mac and Queen Bess, Respectively

Last night we went in for our first inspection, to remove the empty queen cages and to make sure that everyone was thriving. Philip smoked them slightly--not enough to make them think there was a forest fire encroaching, but sufficiently to calm them so that we could lift the frames without getting anybody too riled up.

What joy to find that not only had both hives been successfully queened, those busy girls had already drawn out many of the frames with beeswax and were preparing for a healthy brood of new bees! You can see the marks of their industry in the great world by the bright yellow streakings of pollen in the comb.

This little girl landed on Philip's hood and didn't have any desire to leave. Isn't she beautiful? Her name is Hermione.