Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…
One thing that we need to do every winter is lock down the bees. So I can currently identfy with their plight. We do that by firstly, checking that the bees have enough stores to last them for the winter, much like they do last minute plundering of the shops, not necessarily for toilet roll like us, and if we feel like the bees need a top up because they might go hungry, we will top them up with free school meals over the winter break. *cough, cough, cough*.
Politics aside, the feed that we provide them with is a 2:1 sugar solution that the bees will access if it is required. I am 8 months into my journey as an amateur beekeeper under the ‘guru-like’ eye of my Dad, the 10-year veteran. My beekeeping ‘Yoda’ if you like. Continually learning all along the way, however I have had a few dramas along the way. The most significant one is being stung.
“Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee! Rumble young man, Rumble!” Mohammed Ali definitely had the right idea in accurately describing his fights like the sting of a bee because it leaves you completely devastated. The initial sting is a sharp stab. Then you slowly get a building searing pain as the venom is released, which incidentally smells sweet and like bananas.
I was getting a bit cocky, having not been stung in my first 3 months as a beekeeper. I even bragged to a pair of association beekeepers that I hadn’t been stung the day before it happened the first time. It’s almost as if the bees overheard the conversation and decided that they would conspire to humble me.
Through my continual pictorial documentation of my beekeeping adventures, I managed to unwittingly catch a snap of my silent assailant. Upon inspecting my camera roll, I had snapped a selfie as I walked from the car to the apiary with a single bee sat on the zip of my suit. As I zipped my hood over on my suit, the assassin must have been trapped inside my hood. I heard a buzzing next to my ear at a higher volume than expected and my stomach dropped. My heart started beating and my fight or flight response kicked in. I can’t run away from a bee trapped in my hood but I tried my best and took off sprinting away from the hives, much to the hilarity of the concerned eye of my dad and an invited guest. Whack! I was then dealt the killer blow on my cheek. A knock out punch. This isn’t the worst place that I can image being stung so I am in fact, very grateful that it wasn’t worse.
What followed was two weeks of looking like I had been on the receiving end of a Mohammed Ali beating. They say that you receive the lessons in life that you deserve, and you will be presented with them until you eventually learn them. I now have learnt to obsessively check every possible entrance that a bee might have because “Although she be but little, she is fierce!” This is from Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare and this is true of bees as well as Hermia. Bees might be small but they pack a punch.
The saddest part of all of this is that even though I experience pain over two weeks and some rather amusing swelling to my face and eye, I have recovered and the bees will sadly not. They give their lives to protect the hive. This makes me think of how numbers of bees are sadly dwindling. The lifespan of a bee is expected to be 122-152 days. What can we do to help? Plant wildflowers in your garden, say no to pesticides and support your local beekeepers!