Wednesday, May 8, 2013

From the way back: Bees: The good the bad and the just plain evil.

My friend Pren asked about this post and I actually found it.  So I thought I'd repost, corrected for spelling and grammar.  Oh my.  Silly me.

I just read Pren's harrowing tale of bees and garbage cans and gas pumps and jerk bystanders and I just had to share my life with bees.

When I was a kid, my folks,... well lets just say they were city people of the earth.  Good Neighbors took it just a bit farther than my folks, but it was not all that far off.

We lived in the suburbs, not the city, so it was OK to cover almost every inch of yard with garden.  And converting the old septic tank to rainwater storage was perfectly sanitary (they had the tank chemically sterilized first.)  And digging up flower beds to plant tomatoes was almost as pretty really.  And I'm sure the neighbors found the 12 foot pole bean tee pee in the side yard amusing (mainly because in the fall, my mom would help me cover it with blankets and all the neighbor kids would come over and have pow wows and dance and fight to the death(figuratively, not literally, it was so cool!)  And raising rabbits was not illegal, and made the veggies grow beautifully.  And my mom would go to the co-op and buy huge sacks of flour and rice and beans, and all the neighbors could buy smaller amounts from her.  And the tomato canning parties were really fun and her homemade cream of tomato soup was to die for and she shared.  And sneak your extra zucchini onto your neighbors porch wasn't just a day, it was a whole season and it was really fun, cause I got to do the sneaking .

But when they brought home the bee hives,... things got a wee bit tense.

Now, honey bees are in fact very docile, very calm, very beneficial insects, and unless you bounce a baseball off the side of their hive more than three times in a minute, they really don't want to attack.  (Yes, my brother and I did extensive testing on that and lived to tell about it.  We are neither of us allergic to bee stings by the way.)  I was only ever stung once by our bees (see previous parentheses) and helped my folks work with the hives for years: harvesting honey, marking queens, splitting hives, capturing swarms,...  Yes, I have been elbow deep in many a hive and absolutely covered in bees.  I was of course wearing protective gear and had my trusty smoker at the ready.  Really though, if you smell clean, and don't throw baseballs, you can walk right up to a hive and they just leave you alone.  And the honey and the wax are fabulously worth the work.  I still have some bees wax from when I was a kid.  Smells like summer.  *sigh*

The neighbors were very understandably, not pleased with my folks beekeeping aspirations.  At first.  But my folks listened and explained and shared honey and then the first swarm took off and my father and I captured it, and set up a hive in our neighbors yard,... and then another, and another, till every house near us had a hive and everyone was beekeeping together and it was really kinda cool.  I have very fond memories of those days and although I have no desire to be a suburban beekeeper myself, I would recommend it to those how have the desire, and a good rapport with your neighbors.

Wild bees are another story.  They are just plain evil little stinging machines.  Honey bees can only sting once, the stinger takes part of their abdomen with it and they just die.  Stinging is not in their best interest, therefore, they really don't unless provoked, i.e., baseball.  Ground bees on the other hand, hornets, yellow jackets, wasps, etc, they can sting to their hearts content without even a dull ache, they like it, they are evil.  We killed them at every opportunity and still do to this day. Sevin is fabulouss stuff.  Use it wisely.

K is terrified of bees, because she is also not allergic to bee stings.  She has never provoked them though (how my mother lived through me is a mystery), all her 6 stings were dumb luck:.  Wasps under the porch, ground bees in the yard or in the wall of her playhouse.   We keep a can of bee death handy at all times now.

And like everyone else, I always thought that running and flailing was a bad idea, because with honey bees, it is.  So naturally I always told K  the same thing.  Well, last summer, we were in the Smoky Mountains at this little picnic area that turned out to be beautiful, but one huge ground bee nest.  K was being careful and Mr. Man and I were watching, but the bees were everywhere.  So she and this boy she had met were playing near this little stream and all of a sudden there were bees everywhere.  K takes off like a shot, out distances the poor kid,... who ended up getting stung three times, two in the EAR.  She didn't get stung, but felt really bad that he did the right thing and did.

So now I say, RUN!  Run like the wind, but be faster than everyone else, and don't stop till you can't hear buzzing.  And, if you're running, why not flail.  At least it lets everyone around you know whats going on, so they can run, and flail.  Soon the whole thing look like a scene from The Birds, except with hornets.

Oh, for heavens sake, just run!!!!

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