To Bee or Not to Bee

Photo by mali maeder on

The best tool, I have found, for rescuing a drowning bee from a hot tub is a cheap pair of sunglasses. The second best tool is a sandal or “slide”, third is a cupped hand.. but that risks a sting, and that’s not good for you or the bee. If you see a bee in the hot tub, you might wonder if you have a moral obligation to use your cupped hand to scoop said bee out of her predicament. If you, perhaps, are a big baby in the body of a middle-aged man from Massachusetts, who splashed at said bee for “buzzing your tower” as it were, which caused the bee to plummet into that dubious stew of human skin, bromine, and microorganisms, which caused you to write a run on sentence; I would venture that it’s only fair to grab the nearest possible improvised life-saving device and get that little gal out. Oh, she’ll shiver and shake and look rather pathetic for a little while, but she’ll be ok.

Perhaps I’m just trying to make up for my accidental violence against bees in the past. I remember running like hell as a child, when I hit a bee with a wiffle-ball bat rather than the wicked slider my neighbor dropped on me from eight feet away. In retrospect I probably didn’t need to run, I’m sure I sent the bee to the great apiary in the sky. It must have been a bumble bee, I can still remember the “thunk”. We had the kid who was allergic to bees, of course, since every neighborhood in the 80’s did, but he didn’t run. Are kids still allergic to bees? Are kids outside enough to even worry about it? Are there enough bees to even worry about it?

Cut to just after the turn of the millennium. I’m a 21yr old temporary college dropout, driving a stake truck with a commercial driver’s license and tons of barely-secured pumps, filters, and self-securing pallets of sand bags. I’m bouncing down the Superstition Highway, East of Phoenix at 65mph, with my windows down to mitigate the relentless heat. The air coming in felt like opening an oven to check on your roast. The radio was playing “Bringing Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake. A small cloud of what appeared to be dust was flying right at me and hit me at an angle. I’m sure you realize by now that it wasn’t dust, but a swarm of bees, possibly a colony on the move. I’m not sure if they were “killer bees”, but the ones down the back of my t-shirt sure tried their best to kill me. The others were in various states of dying, confusion, or blackening the windshield with their bee-bits.

Braking a speeding stake truck (think of those long, flat-bed trucks with the removable grates that you don’t see much anymore) loaded with tons of sand isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. Braking a speeding truck with a back covered in stinging bees and bee-guts, with a darkened windshield, windshield wipers vainly trying to scrape off the already baking bees.. that’s a fair bit harder. Doing all of this to the tune of “Bringing Sexy Back”, looking like you’re doing some apoplectic new dance move is.. simply absurd. I hope this explains how I remember what exact song was on the radio over twenty years ago. I finally got the truck to a stop, safely, on the side of the road. Of course, the music was still blaring, and I was now on the side of the road doing my bee dance for anyone driving by to enjoy. The cabin of the truck was an absolute crime scene. I won’t paint too precise a picture of the carnage, but it took me a little while to get back on the road, and every minute or two a dazed bee would crawl up the side of my seat, or my shoe, or the back of my neck.

The bees would get another shot at revenge a year later. I was riding cross-country, almost to the Minnesota state line on my red Honda Magna, my entire “biker” experience having been condensed into the six months prior. I was wearing a Gap leather jacket, as opposed to an actual riding jacket designed for such adventures. A bee, perhaps one that had been part of that swarm and was now waiting in ambush many states away, flew up the gap in my armor and began stinging me as I was flying down the highway. She didn’t survive the attack, of course, and flew past my neck and out the back of my jacket. The deed was done, though, and the stinger kept pumping poison and making my left arm throb for miles until I found a spot to pull over and extract it.

I suppose the bees and I are even. We haven’t had any incidents since then. That being said I think I’ll still extract them from pools whenever I can. It’s better to keep things that way.

[edit: there was that one time I got stung by a bee while filming a Goya commercial, but I guess that can wait for another time..]

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