Recently, North Carolina’s head apiarist visited our local beekeepers’ meeting. He had a monkish, Mr. Rogers-like calmness about himself, which I suppose is one reason why he’s such a good beekeeper. When examining hives he didn’t wear a protective suit, veil, or gloves. He didn’t seem the least bit afraid.
So far I’ve yet to develop this calm confidence around bees. Although I’ve graduated to glove-less beekeeping, I sometimes shelter my hands in pockets when bees finally take interest in me. Ironically, it’s never the bees that buzz loudly around my body that sting me. These bees are just hoping to irritate me enough that I’ll leave—they’re all bark but no bite. The ones that get me give no warning. They just make a “beeline” to me and thrust their stinger in.
Once stung I usually lose all self-respect and run away flailing and flapping, after which I put gloves back on. When one bee stung the head apiarist, he didn’t even flinch. He just calmly removed the bee and went about his business.
I guess it’s the unpredictability that gets me flustered. A sting doesn’t hurt that bad, but I can’t foresee when one of those suicidal bees will take aim at me. And once one stings me, I become even more worried that I’m about to be popped again. Since I’ve started keeping bees, I’ve been stung three times in five months, and I usually inspect the bees once a week. This means I’ve been stung three times in about twenty inspections. Unfortunately, it’s the 15% I remember, not the 85% in which I’ve escaped unscathed.
Of course, worrying about stings does no good. I’m sure bees can sense fear and anxiety somehow, and I know if I remain calm the bees are more likely to as well. Perhaps one day I’ll develop a Mr. Rogers-like persona around bees, but for now I’m more like Sir Robin in Monty Python: I bravely runaway.