Monday, September 13, 2010

Puddle Pants

There are few things that are better teachers about how to keep bees than the bees themselves.

They can certainly let you know when you’re not doing things right.

In early summer, the weeds in front of the hives had grown considerably to the point that it was time to cut them down.

Dad brought his weed whacker to do the job. I wasn’t sure how the bees would behave. I had him put on the full heavy bee jacket instead of the shirt and veil that we normally wear.

The bees didn’t seem to mind the noise or movement and they didn’t complain at all.

I think that’s the beekeepers’ folly. We get complacent and we forget about the stories we’ve heard about what has happened to others.

By the end of summer the weeds had grown back. Dad once again brought his weed whacker. This time he wore his long sleeved shirt and veil. I was remembering how calm the bees were last time and so I was at the back of the hives recharging sticky boards.

Suddenly bees were flying back at me and buzzing angrily. I looked up and I could see that tiny pieces of grass were flying at the bees like shrapnel. I saw our mistake then. Because it was cooler weather, the bees were clustered around the stoop.

The whacker was spitting these bits at high speed and they were pinging off the bees. Of course they weren’t happy about it. I could see they were circling Dad by that point with real purpose.

“Stop,” I said. “You’re hurting the bees.” I pointed to the bees who were staggering around on the landing platform. By that time they were buzzing my head too, and I wasn’t wearing a veil. We both moved back to the truck.

Then Dad made an announcement: “I think I’ve got a bee up my pant leg.”
“Well, you’ll get stung,” I said. It’d happened to me once when shaking a lot of bees.

I guess that wasn’t acceptable to him because the next thing I saw were his pants in a puddle around his ankles. All I could see was bee, after bee, after bee, flying out of them. How did so many of them get up his pant legs, I wondered? He did get stung too, but only once, on the leg.

Let’s just say that we learned not to be so complacent after that and when we returned to harvest our honey a few days later we both had our socks up over our pant legs.

For the honey harvest, the bees were extraordinarily calm and we had no problems at all.

It was almost enough to make us get complacent again.
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