I have a thing for bees, I admit it. It all stems from this book I read as a child called "The Keeper of the Bees" by Gene Stratton-Porter that made beekeeping into some idyllic, mysterious pastime that had magical healing properties. When the bees arrive on our blossoms in Spring, my heart leaps a little inside knowing they are home. When fumbling bumbling bumble bees alight nearby, I can't resist the urge to reach out and stroke their soft fuzzy bodies for a second before they move on to another pollen-filled flower. Bees just fill me with an inexplicable feeling of peace. I like bees.
So you can imagine my excitement a few years ago when a bee swarm appeared in one of the trees in our orchard! I rushed over to the shop to tell my husband. I rushed back home to show him the bees. I rushed to the house to phone my dad. Really, I was buzzing around pretty much like a bee myself. Fortunately my dad is an experienced beekeeper so he came and caught our swarm and installed it in a hive for us. We were so excited! We had bees. We would have honey! Oh, my little world was now complete.
We had no beekeeping equipment, but still I forged naively on. I know enough from watching my dad when I was a kid that even if you don't have an official smoker, you can create the necessary smoke to subdue those stingers with some rolled-up newspaper and a couple of matches. We both donned pairs of my husband's overalls to ensure that minimal amounts of our skin would be exposed to potential stings. I have a couple of bug hats with netting designed to keep out mosquitoes, so we put those on too along with work gloves to protect our hands. And then, quaking in our rubber boots (I figured they would cover more of our bodies than mere shoes), we ventured forth from the house looking, I am sure, as bizarre as we ever have done.
We marched resolutely to the hive, smoking newspaper waving to and fro like a sad imitation of an olympic torch. We encircled the hive with smoke, we thought the bees were subdued. With great trepidation and a heart that was pounding with nerves, I lifted the lid off of the hive. The bees began to get agitated! They were not sufficiently subdued at all! Someone, make that two large someones, were invading their hive and they were not happy! The buzzing escalated quickly from a gentle drone to the loud harsh tones of a chainsaw! The bees were no longer flying happily in and out of the hive - they were circling like warplanes looking for a target!
And somehow, in spite of our many layers of protection, a number of bees managed to find their sneaky way underneath my overalls and into my bra! Yes, into my BRA! I began shrieking madly and jumping up and down hysterically! My husband was circling me frantically wondering what he was supposed to do. I ran for the house, pulling clothing off willy-nilly as I went. Then suddenly I heard a howl from my husband. They had found him too! He also began running madly for the house and as I watched him I was surprised to see how high he could jump midstride whenever a bee found a home for its stinger! He would run two or three paces and then leap wildly into the air with a shout before landing on one foot and continuing to run. Meanwhile, I was still hauling bees out of my bra and slapping madly at my body with my bug hat which, having failed to keep the sweet innocent insects out of my clothes, was now being used rather ineffectually as a sort of "bee swatter." I have no idea if any of the neighbours were watching but I can only imagine how it must have appeared had they have happened to look out the window at that particular moment. Finally we collapsed in the house in hysterical laughter, covered in bee stings in unmentionable places, high on adrenaline, and relieved to be safe inside and far from the hive.
I would like to say that we waited a couple of days and returned to the hive once we had figured out a better plan of action, gathered the honey, leaving enough for the bees for the winter, and then closed it up safely for the season, but truthfully we decided that the bees could have all the honey to themselves. I did gingerly sneak over and replace the lid so that the bees would be protected from invasion by mice, etc. However in the Spring, we discovered that all the bees were gone, along with the honey that they had obviously consumed over the winter. I suspect they waited out the season and then took off in the Spring in a fit of disgust over having such ridiculous humans in their vicinity.
I do see lots of bees on our property every year and I wonder from time-to-time if they are part of the same swarm, now living wild and free in some hive they've found for themselves in an old tree or something. I do love to take pictures of bees and I do still pet the occasional bumble bee. But otherwise, I leave the bees alone to do their work and collect pollen and produce honey without any interference on my part. And so far I haven't been stung again so I think they are quite happy with this "I'll leave you alone if you'll leave me alone" policy that we have adopted.
Which leads me to this great parody of the Black Eyed Peas - and a great reminder that bees are not totally innocent and idyllic. :)
Imma Bee, Imma Bee