This is a post in the Bee Love series about first-time beekeeping.
My day started with dancing to house music in the kitchen with my brother and our childhood friend while we cleaned the dishes from breakfast. We were all hungover from the night before and ready to do whatever on this fine Saturday morning.
After cleaning up, I headed home to see my mom preparing the yard/house/etc for my French cousins (dubbed “The Frenchies”) who are arriving this upcoming Tuesday. After following her around and agreeing, yes, their room is clean enough and yes, that chair looks good there, I visited the bees to check on them. With barely any energy and a mini headache from either the alcohol, gluten-filled pancakes, or both, I sat next to the hive as I do most days and watched my bees fly in and out.
They were busy as usual, but a small cluster of 5 bees formed at the base of the landing area. There, it seemed as though the bees were fighting. Lots of loud buzzing and wings were flapping. I noticed one bee lost one of her six legs below the knee. I didn’t know if there was a fight about some bee thing (honey? someone killed a baby bee by accident?) or if these were intruders that the guards were trying to attack. They all looked the same to me. I could only identify the one with the missing leg.
Either way, it was entertaining and I stayed longer than usual. I watched the fight from beginning to end, trying to figure out what was going on. Eventually, I saw a fuzzy blur, heard a loud buzz, and felt a stinger land on the side of one of my fingers. Fuck, I had been stung.
I backed away from the hive and quickly jumped out of the bees’ paths. One bee was already dying. I didn’t want more to die because of me. I wasn’t even doing anything! No sudden movements, no fear. Maybe they just didn’t want me to hang out around them for too long, but I set up their house. Come on.
Once I got out of there, though, I heard a buzzing very close to my ear. I tried to run. I saw a few bees flying on either side of me. No. Stop it! I’m on your side. Please don’t sacrifice yourselves. The buzzing was still very close to my ear no matter where I ran. The bee was stuck in my hair!
I tried everything. I flipped my hair around in different ways, trying to free the bee. I continued to run around in a panicked frenzy. I called for my mom to see if she could help, but she wouldn’t come out of the house. A bee was stuck in my hair.
I considered jumping into the pool like people do in the movies, but it seemed a bit cruel considering I wanted to save the bee, not kill it. I ran upstairs and could still hear the buzzing. Messing my hair around a bit more, I shook my head like a dog.
I turned the shower on. At least it wasn’t chlorine. Eventually, the buzzing stopped before I could get into the shower. I didn’t know what happened to the bee that was in my hair, but I grabbed tweezers to remove the stinger in my finger anyway. Then, I jumped into the shower.
The whole situation was very weird. I didn’t expect to panic the way I did, but having a bee stuck in your hair is stressful. Considering bees remember faces, I’m scared that my bees won’t like me anymore, that they’ll see me as a threat. Maybe the bee that stung me was a younger bee who hadn’t seen me yet. I don’t know.
On the other hand, I’m happy my bees are more aggressive now. It means the hive is doing very well and that they’re better able to protect themselves against predators. However, I’m no longer as brave as I was. I’ve been stung maybe 50-100 times in my lifetime, but having a bee stuck in my hair was fairly traumatizing.
Later in the afternoon, I picked some pumpkin flowers from the garden (they’re not producing any pumpkins, so we’re eating the flowers) and maybe I should have waited until morning because there were bees inside of all of them. I realized this when I saw one of the flowers in my arms start to move and I heard a loud buzzing sound. I dropped all of them and watched as bees escaped from the closed flowers. What was going on? Do they sleep in there? Do they pollinate the flowers all night?
I’ve noticed that bees tend to hang out in the pumpkin flowers for longer than usual, but I’m not sure why or what purpose it serves. There’s always something to learn and I’ll have to look into why bees are in squash flowers after they close for the night. Next time, I’ll wait to pick them in the morning, when they’re open and I know I’m not scaring any bees.
Photo Credit: bee art