My New Book


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.

40 comments to Hello Bee Sting, Goodbye Dignity

  • Anonymous

    F&***n ouch. I would have been screaming my head off. Least you know your not allergic. Has Cabal gotten stung yet ? Or tried to eat a bee, like an certain papillon I have.

  • spacedlaw

    Oh Dear…
    It was bound to happen, of course, but that does not ease the pain I am sure. Lavender essential oil might help.

    That dog picture is great, the expression on his face so funny.
    In the picture just underneath it, what are we looking at exactly ?

  • archi ann

    Cabal is my new hero! if he had opposable thumbs he would have helped in a heart beat!

  • detritus

    ouch! i just wonder if it would help to always carry a comb, but then big hair might be troublesome! i still remember when my cat (now long gone) saw a bumblebee and just snapped after it and closed his mouth around it, looked a bit silly for a while and then opening the mouth and off it flew.

    im feeling guilty for all the bees iv ever hoovered up. we still have a huge selfbuilt bee house (not sure what its called when its not human assembled)that they had built in the roof. you could just about put your arms around it (after it had been emptyed (yes i am now ashamed!)to our defence it was a bit to close for comfort!

  • lisa

    I’m glad you’re okay, and no one else got stung. I think it’s one of my biggest fears that a bee or some other stingy creature will get stuck in my hair. I cringed the whole time I read this.

    Oh, and my mom was stung on her temple once. Her eye swelled up and she couldn’t see out of it. I believe she had a shot from the doctor to clear it up, but I don’t remember the details.

    What a sweetie Cabal is. I really enjoyed that photo.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry but I howled with laughter at this post!!!

    I was sorry you had a sting but the way you write had me rolling! I would have been every bit as panicked so I’m happy it wasn’t me!

  • birdchick

    Thank you for you sympathy. Lorraine and I both realized that this was going to be a good blog entry. When I first sent Non Birding Bill a message that I got stung, he was all sympathy. When I came home and told him the story, dumb ass:

    “You were standing between the two hives–without a bee suit, planting bulbs, in late afternoon, and wearing black pants (black is a bee don’t)? What were you thinking?”

    When I was feeding the bees yesterday, I just tried to take some arty shots. The photo just below Cabal’s is a new worker bee emerging from her cell, that’s a little bee head. To my knowledge, Cabal has not been stung, but leaves the bee hives alone and he’s all white, which helps.

    This morning, the bee sting isn’t too sore, and it doesn’t feel too swollen. Although, it is a tad itchy.

  • bluesaffron

    What an amazing post!

    I’m glad you’re alright and only suffered one sting. I read a story once, with a similar situation and the person there rolled around in a handy mud puddle.

    Tea Tree oil is also good for bee stings and scrapes in general.

    How you managed to take photos with a bee in your bonnet is a wonder.

    Cabal looks confused and concerned but stayed by your side despite the danger.

    I think most buzzy creatures are grumpy at this time of the year, because not all of them will find room in the hive for the winter.

    Another lesson learned though, to add to the book.

    It sounds like your naturalizing with the flower bulbs, lots of work with a sore back to follow but it will be worth it in the Spring.

  • momo

    Ow! How freaky to have the poor bee buzzing in your hair! I was stung by a bee once in my garden and grabbed a piece of my aloe vera plant and put some on–it immediately eased the pain.

  • dguzman

    OMG, your taut prose brought back the memory of being stung by wasps back in college. Holy crap that hurt. I’m sorry you were stung, and I’m glad you’re not allergic (I am).

    So will this make you more cautious, or more “as one” with the bees?

  • Dea

    Oh dear sweet lord. That sounds like the plot for a horror movie and reads as breathlessly. I was on the edge of my seat. Until the rolling on the ground laughing bit. Then it became a Monty Python film.

  • Heather

    This was such a great post! I’m so sorry you got stung, though I suppose it was an inevitability. On the plus side, you have now joined the millions who have shared that experience. Plus, who needs dignity, really? ;) I can say with certainty that you handled it way better than I would have, rolling around, barefoot and all.

    And Dea got it perfectly right. Very Monty Python meets Bee Horror. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I am trying so hard to be sympathetic, but the vision of the rolling on the ground, ear plugging, and “helpful” friend is just too much. I can’t stop laughing long enough to feel sympathy. What a hoot! Too bad Cabal didn’t have a camera. Would have made some great shots.

  • Anonymous

    Oh Sharon, I know the sheer panic of what you went through. When I was in high school my family and I were hiking through the woods in Grantsburg, WI when we stopped to look at some really cool fungus growing on a log. My mom pointed at it with her toe and suddenly we were attached on all sides by bees. They crawled under our arm pits and anywhere they could get. My dad kept shouting “cover your eyes” as we ran away. Dad swatted bees from us for several minutes. He was never stung once — but he had been towards the back and must have not seemed a threat. To this very day I freak around bees. Am hoping the episode didn’t “sensitize” me to them and make me allergic.
    Kathy in MN

  • Jess

    Black is a bee don’t would be a good slogan for a new line of Bird-chic tee shirts. Black ones. :D

  • Amy

    Goodlord, you’re a good storyteller. My condolences for the sting, but my thanks for the wonderfully told tale (c:

  • Maureen

    Ow! Ow, ow, OWWW! This makes me remember my bee sting in college. My flip-flop broke and my forward moving foot landed, sans shoe, on a bee on the sidewalk, who got pissy at being stepped on and stung the arch of my foot.

    I’d not want that pain in my head. *shudder*

    I didn’t know about black being a “bee don’t”. I had one bumping me yesterday while hanging out laundry… wonder if that’s why (I was in black)?

    Good for Cabal for trying to help, and for mostly ignoring the hives. Jim ate a bee once, and it stung him in the throat on the way down. He survived because we’re less than a minute from the vet office, otherwise he’d have died from it (the swelling closed his airway).

    Hilarious entry though. I can picture you and Lo at the height of the action.

  • Anonymous

    On the way to work this morning a bee landed on my windshield while I was stopped at a light. I had the opportunity to study it for several moments before the light turned green. I must say it was kinda cute. I was all excited to comment about it until I read your blog today. Your post brings me back to a warm sunny day in my youth when I got stung for the first time. I remember the pain, and the warm throbby feeling quite clearly. I too was a little less than dignified and my family recounts it often as a funny story. I on the other hand don’t think it was so funny. I had always been a bee-hater since my notorious sting, but it’s amazing how after just reading your posts I am now somewhat of a bee sympathizer.

  • Anonymous

    The radiation in cell phones creates problems for the bee’s “radar” system and equiliberium!

  • kostia

    I’m allergic and terrified, and this blog (and Neil’s anecdotes) fascinate me. This post just reminds me why I’m glad to be fascinated from afar.

    But I came by today to post this Picasa link. Speaking of cool bee pictures.

  • Linda F.

    Oh, my what a tale! I’m learning so much from all your posts. I’m not a bee keeper, but have a large flower garden so have a lot of bees around. What I learned today: don’t wear black!

    I’m also a scrapbooker/photographer and need to know which one of you had the wherewithall to snap the pick of Cabal during this frenzy!?

  • Jennifer

    All sympathies on the sting! I think the most impressive part of the story is when you both walked back to the car – that takes bravery.

    I didn’t see it mentioned in the comments, but a solution of 1 part meat tenderizer to 4 parts water is a very good treatment for a sting. The papain (enzyme) in the tenderizer breaks down the protein in the bee sting, which is usually what is so itchy and painful. You don’t want to leave it on more than 1/2 hour, but it works wonders – I accidentally kicked a bee walking in sandals in college and this cleared up the whole sting with one treatment that night.

  • Anne

    And here last night I was telling my dog that if Birdchick could manage not to get stung by bees with two hives, he could manage not to get stung every time he wandered into the garden.

    Although, I doubt you’re trying to paw the bees and eat them like he does.

    I hope your head feels okay!

  • Masklyn Arathorn

    BIG ouch!

    I have the unfortunate problem of being allergic. As I live in a “bee prolific” area I have to keep an Epi-Pen within 10 feet and the necessity of going to the hospital within 45 minutes of the sting.

    Luckily, you seem to not be (or is that not bee – or Eric – well, at least, half-way).

  • Anonymous

    Something similar happened to me when I was about fourteen. I was on a friend’s patio and a wasp flew straight from a nearbye (and supposedly empty) nest, straight into my very long hair and began stinging. My uncle’s solution was to grab a cold, open beer and mash against my head, spilling loads of beer on me in the process. I think he successfully drowned it. My mother was unimpressed, but it just proves that beer is good for all sorts of things, really.

  • Anonymous

    Props to your Uncle, Lee, for his quick thinking! And he must love you lots to sacrifice the cold amber liquid nectar of the gods for you like that.

  • Kelly

    So sorry you got stung :( My 8 mo. baby got stung tonight too, and is feeling much better with some Motrin and Benadryl. I’m deathly allergic to all vespids except honey bees, so I can’t even imagine doing what you do, but enjoy reading about it!

  • Monica

    Oh my goodness, I am so sorry you were stung but OMG I have to tell you I was laughing the whole time I was reading your bee sting story. I really am sorry you were stung but I just loved the story, Love ya

  • Rick

    Good luck with the Buck Thorn. I spent a day a couple of weeks ago with The Nature Conservancy. I will try to find out what chemical they used on the stumps to keep them from re-growing.

  • Mary

    *helplessly laughing*

    Sorry, I should sympathize more….been stung a bunch of times (general bug fascination from a young age)
    but *more laughing* you rolling, FabLo stomping your ponytail and the look an Cabal’s face is priceless.

    Remind Mr. Neil when he comes back he said this last bit:

    “and my dog (who can be seen both investigating puffballs and being sympathetic as Sharon gets her First Bee Sting over at)…..which are the sort of things that I’d be posting if I wasn’t on tour. Sigh.

    Make sure to let him know that next time it can be him.

  • Crystal

    Do you think being on the cell phone had anything to do with it? I wonder how the signals that they emit would appear to bees.

    Much sympathy to you for your sting!

  • Susan Gets Native

    I have a feeling that a new dance sensation will be sweeping Cape May. The Birdchick Ponytail Stomp.

  • Anonymous

    I think there is a post here from earlier this summer where Mr. Neil did have a run in with a bee. As he has already been stung well and deep once, his system is now that much stronger, with a measure of immunity to any future attacks. Birdchick is mightier now as well.

  • Peggy

    Sorry you were stung. Also sorry that NBB wasn’t nicer about it. Just wait, he’ll get stung someday.

  • Mag

    Maybe it’s just me but Cabal kinda looks like Neil in that photo. Just my twopence.

  • k. borcz

    I enjoyed your crazy bee stinging adventures. My grandfather raises honeybees (e. europe) and he won’t let me near them, having never been stung myself. I also love the close up photos you’ve taken of them, they’re quite nice.

    ps. daffodils aren’t really native species

  • birdchick

    Hence the reason for the “mostly” in parenthesis in this sentence:

    “it with (mostly) native or at least bird and bee friendly plants.”

  • Mag

    Birdchick & Bill, I only just saw Cabal dolled up as Neil on his blog, thanks for the laugh :) and good luck with the bees, it’s both freaky and awesome to see them white like that (tunnel of white bees pic)…

  • Kanat

    Omg the picture of you dressing him up totally inspired me to art:

    He so does. Can Denial be an 8th Endless XD?

    I hope you’re feeling better from your stings! ::internet comforts::

  • sylvia

    Of course you got stung! Your last bee post ended with:

    “That is something I never thought would ever happen. Ever. And no, I did not get stung.”

    It had to happen…