Monday, August 17, 2015

Bee Stompin'

In the apocryphal tale, three-year-old Crorey was walking along in Granddaddy's yard, toddling along down the mountain.  Quite suddenly, my giggle turned to scream.  Everybody turned to look except Granddaddy, who knew where I was.  He was already in motion.

For those of my cousins who never knew Granddaddy as anything but an old man, what happened next is improbable.  But I am assured that it is true.  He sprinted down the side of the mountain, hurtling logs and dodging saplings and running over anything in his path.  And swooped me out of the yellow jacket nest that I had fallen into.
What bee could possibly sting that face?

He picked me up and started picking the yellow jackets off one by one, ignoring the stings that he was getting while doing so.

I ended up with a few stings.  He ended up with more than a hundred.

Seems as though I have spent an awful lot of my life being stung. 

Abelia Hedge was the plant that surrounded my house.

Four-year-old Crorey in the back yard, fascinated with the buzzing insects that seemed as attracted as he was to the sweet-smelling flowers.  And I was doing some serious bee stompin'.  Once I had successfully stomped bees one day, I did it again the next.  Eventually, I got stung.

Tearfully, I asked why the bee had stung me.  Mom explained to my bewildered four-year-old self that bees do not like being stomped.  And that they protect themselves by stinging. 

And if I am going to go bee stomping, that shoes are a must.

Episode 1 from abroad: Fast forward to a 9-year-old, bored out of his mind, stuck in French Guyana for an unexpected week. Not remembering his lesson taught earlier in that decade, my 9-year old self is chucking rocks at a small (tennis-ball sized) paper nest that was surrounded by increasingly agitated black flies.

Sweet success!  The fifth rock hit the hornets' nest squarely, and I watched with glee as the 'flies' flew away from the now-exploded nest.




Running, I learned, does not help.


A sniffling 9-year-old eventually came to understand that not every stinging insect is yellow and black.  Some are even small and black, and that you should never, never, NEVER hit a paper nest with a rock.  There is always a scout hornet watching to send all soldiers back in the direction of the flying rock.

Episode 2: A wasp stings my face after I whacked the nest under the dock with a paddle (and don't dive into the water quickly enough).  Swells the eye shut, and I proudly ask Mom to get a picture.

Fast forward a few years.  I have been stung by a yellow jacket from a nest in the yard while I was cutting grass.  Needing to finish the yard, I find a large rock, and seal off the hole.  Very pleased with myself for removing the threat, I finish the yard.  Two days later, I find that the ground hornets have re-routed their entrance.  Huh!  Pretty industrious of them.  So I remove the rock from the old entrance to see what it looked li----


Every year, my fascination with the stinging insects increases.  During my years as an archaeologist in Mexico, I was always on the lookout for xux nests - black hornets that produce small amounts of honey to feed the pupae.  There were regular applications of aloe to stings I received while falling out of trees I had scaled to retrieve some honey.

And somehow, I never managed to retrieve any honey.

While I was there, I got to help a friend of mine take honey from a Langstroth hive he had on his cattle farm.  The experience was magical.  He used the smoker to calm the bees, and then opened the top from the hive.

In the middle of a Yucatecan summer, I was hit with a wave of sweet-smelling cool air.  It was delicious.  The bees were regulating the temperature by fanning the hive, and so the temperature was much lower.

No stings.

I spent a lot of time talking to the guys about honey production from that point on.  From their native stingless honeybees that they kept next to their houses to the European bees that they kept on their farms, I got as much information as I could.

So I felt confident when it came time to remove the honeybees from the column on my front porch. First time ever using a smoker.  Beekeeper garb cobbled together from items I had on hand.  On a structurally unsound porch.  Atop an 8-foot ladder.  And using a bee-vac that I made from a shop vac and some spare parts.  What could go wrong?

Answer?  Nothing.  I lovingly extracted them, as calmly and gently as I could.  I took the queen with me, and removed as much of the hive as I could (it took me two more extractions before I got them all). 

I am now working to figure out how to keep bees myself.  I have plans for a top-bar hive that I will be building once the weather cools a bit. I collect articles about other celebreties that keep bees (this week brought me an article about the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers who keeps Flea's Bees). 

Now I just need to figure out how to get my wife on board with putting the bees on our back porch.  Or maybe a through-the-wall viewing display.

Or maybe I want to stay married. 

1 comment:

aunt Patty said...

I don't know how you and bees can stay married to Kathe. Maybe remote location hive spot. Love you loving bees but loving Kathe more.