I’ve always loved bees. Or, almost always. I have been stung exactly once. When I was about four or five, I was hiding in a barrel and I accidentally trapped a bee against the side. It stung me and I went inside, wailing, to show my mother. For the next couple of days I was frantic whenever a bee approached me, until I was told that they would only sting if provoked. I cannot remember who told me, but I do remember this amazing calmness taking ahold of me. I practically melted as I relaxed, and I remember being fascinated by bees ever since.
Bees don’t seem to mind me too much either. Bees follow me around when I am outside, land on me to investigate. I am thrilled by the sweet tickle as they move around. I remember how surprised I was when I realized they were after my sweat. It can be unnerving for others to watch, but whenever a bee comes near, I get that familar melting sensation and as I become still, the bee is sure to land.
Bumblebees are fat and fuzzy, lazy and curious. If you are very gentle, you can get them to walk your hands and look at them up close. Wasps are hard and angular, very militant with their crisp lines and colors. I don’t encourage them to stay, but often it cannot be helped. I was standing in a line one hot summer day, and the guy in front of me was gesticulating wildly as he retold an exciting story to the man in front of him. The girl behind me was appalled to see three wasps home in on my face, landing and exploring. I made her stop when she went to go wave them away, explaining how I wasn’t worried as long as I was still. The man in front of me was a problem, though. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he gave a strangled girly squeak when he turned to see my wasp-covered face. I asked him to please be a bit calmer, and he meekly complied. The wasps went away in a few minutes, and we all had a good laugh about it.
I first thought about keeping bees when I read “A Country Year: Living the Questions” by Sue Hubble. This was in the beginning of the phase where I was bit by the farm bug, and this book was the first ‘memoir’ rural lifestyle book that I read. I was very hooked. Some of my favorites include “Shepherdess: Notes from the Field” by Joan Jarvis Ellison, and “Bean Blossom Dreams: A City Family’s Search for a Simple Country Life” by Sallyann J. Murphey. It’s these personal accounts filled with endless learning experiences that make me feel that I too can have that sort of life. I’m always looking for more titles, and I’m thrilled whenever I find one.
Years ago, I was sad to hear of the rising problems that honeybees were being attacked by roaming bees or other invasive pests. Now there’s the mysterious colony collapse disorder. Is it viral? Fungal? Stress? Pollenating seasons? Overachieving breeding practices? Who knows? I will fight to have and keep honeybees someday. I hope they crack this one soon.