Hello Bee Sting, Goodbye Dignity

It was inevitable. Working with bees I had to be stung sooner or later. I've been kind of dreading it, but I thought it was more the anticipation of the sting as opposed to the sting itself. I learned many lessons today, one being that the anticipation of the sting is not worse that the sting itself. The sting HURTS. One week, I'm hand feeding my bees. The next week, they're stinging me. Women!

So, we have this madcap plan to rid Mr. Neil's woods of invasive exotic plants like buckthorn and garlic mustard and replace it with (mostly) native or at least bird and bee friendly plants. This is a long term project, but the buckthorn must be taken away--more on this later. Today we began the plan by trying to get some bulbs in the ground that will pop up in early spring to aid the bees with pollen and nectar gathering. We got some daffodil, hyacinth, and crocus bulbs on sale and started putting them around the gardens. I had the brilliant idea of planting the bulbs near some of the hives. This wasn't too crazy of an idea, earlier this week I planted some bee friendly trees (red osier dogwood, lilac, and pussy willow). The cool weather has slowed them down a bit, and as along as I kept a good ten feet from the hives, they were okay with our digging.

I had been out the hives earlier today--that's where most of these photos came from. I was feeding Kitty and just checking on Olga. For some reason, the bees were really interested in crawling all over my suit. I thought I must have spilled some home made nectar on my bee suit, but in hindsight, I wondering if they had it in for me from the get go? Especially that one on the far left in the above photo. This little pack of Olga bees looks like they are plotting against. But that one on the end, she has it in for me, she wants to do the stingin'.

I went out with Cabal and began planting my bulbs. It was later in the afternoon and the foraging bees were heading back to the hive. I noticed that I was working under the bee super highway, the spot where bees from both hives descend in the area and then split to go to their respective hives. I figured that if I kept bent over and low to the ground, all should go well and it did.

Then my cell phone rang, it was my sister Terri. I told her that I was standing between the hives, she was honored. I told her that I was sans bee suit and she was really impressed. I continued planting bulbs while on the phone. We caught up and then I noticed Lorraine approaching the bee area. I hung up from my sister and Lorraine paused before coming closer. "Wow, there are a lot of bees." She noted.

I looked over to the Olga hive. In the time I was on the phone with my sister, hundreds of bees had descended on the entrance of the Olga hive. In the instant that I thought I should maybe leave, I felt a prick on my head, just behind my ear, but well into my hair. I realized that I was being stung. It didn't hurt that much in the first instant and I wondered if I really had been stung or if it was a mosquito. Then I heard angry buzzing. Then I felt tremendous pain.

"I've been stung!" I shouted. Lorraine and Cabal looked as though they were about to bolt. "Ow! It's still in my hair! Ow!"

It was still in my hair and I wondered if I was far enough from the hive to avoid attracting the other bees attention? Would they smell the attack pheromone from her sting and come join the party? I couldn't see where I was stung, but I tried to get the bee out, by flicking fingers near the epicenter of the pain. They dying bee buzzed harder and that sent me into a panic and flight mode and I ran towards Lorraine. I'm not sure if when I reached her I tripped and fell or if some twisted response of stop, drop and roll came into play, but I was on the ground thrashing, yelling all the while, "It's still in my hair! I can hear it!"

Lorraine who is at best on uncertain terms with bees to begin with, tried to look at my hair, but my trashing on the ground was making it difficult. I think I had a fear that the bee would get loose from her stinger and get in my ear. I plugged my ear with my finger and rolled over to the other side, giving Lorraine a view of the stung side of my head. Lorraine started stomping on my ponytail. "It's still there!"

It was at this point that Cabal sensed something was amiss and wanted to help. He sensed our panic as I was writhing and squealing on the ground and Lorraine was jumping up and down desperately trying to get a bee out of my hair without actually having to touch it. Cabal wanted to help too, but what could a mere dog do? He barked and whimpered and then began digging at my clothes.

It was at this point I realized the ridiculousness of the situation and just started laughing. Lorraine pulled out the binder holding my ponytail and frantically kept searching for the bee. I could hear more buzzing from my unplugged ear. Every time she would find it, the bee would slip deeper into my hair. It didn't help that the bee was the same color as my hair. Finally, she got it out and then said, "Ah, it's flying at me!"

"That's not the same bee," I warned, "They die after they sting you! That's a different bee!"

She ran. Cabal ran. I ran. We made it to the four runner, but the bees were still chasing us. We took off down the field. We made it a safe distance away, I looked down to my feet and realized I had kicked off my shoes and was barefoot.

"We have to get back to the four runner." Lorraine said nervously, noting how close it was parked to the hives.

"I have to go back to get my shoes and all the planting tools I left behind." I noted.

We got the stuff and headed back to the house. Lorraine asked how my head was. For a moment it would have a warm, almost pleasant sensation, then would come searing pain and then it would go back to a warm sensation again. When we got to the house, Lorraine had to go through my hair to find the sting. She asked where it hurt and the area was getting wider. It didn't help that I have really thick hair to sift through. After some searching, she located the stinger and pulled it out, the waves of throbbing pain ended and I could feel the side of my head and ear swelling slightly. We were both nauseous and had some mint tea to soothe ourselves.

I hope no one in a nearby farm house was watching us from afar.

Ah, dignity, it's sometimes overrated.