The Secret World of Bees

A very tenacious bumble-bee has laid claim to the flowers around my house. He jealously guards them, buzzing and flapping his little wings around us whenever we get too close.

I grew up in terror of bees, a fear I learned from my mother who is allergic to their sting. I so went out of my way to avoid bees, that I wasn’t stung until I was 23 years old. I reached into a newspaper box on a summer’s evening, but instead of a Grand Rapid’s Press, I got a stick in the pinkie finger from a yellow jacket apparently reading the day’s headlines.

Stunned, I stood there for a moment waiting to see what would happen. I knew from my mother’s experiences that if I were allergic, I’d start to swell up immediately. Soon my pinkie finger would be the size of my big toe. Then I remembered a cousin who is deathly allergic to bees. She carries an EpiPen, because bee stings cause her to asphyxiate. I imagined my husband arriving home from work to find the parking lot of our apartment complex illuminated by the flashing lights of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, and my breathless body lying on the pavement. But nothing happened. By the time I reached our apartment, my finger didn’t even hurt anymore.

Last summer was our first in the house we now live in, and also my first encounter with the bee centurion. I was more terrified of him than any other bee I’d ever laid eyes on. I’ve never come across a larger, plumper bumble-bee. This bee could take a hummingbird in a fist fight. He’s huge! Surely a sting from a bee that size would hurt.

The bee likes to hover near our porch, lying in wait for us. Last summer he held me almost captive. I would look out my screen door and wait for him to fly away for a moment, then quickly run out the door, dragging my son behind me to back yard. If the bee came near us, we’d run as I tried to shoo him away with flapping hands and shrieks. A few times I tried squirting him with water from the garden hose, and even shooting him with cans of insect poison. I always missed, and he always came back. I was relieved when fall came around, and the bee left to do what ever it is bees do in the winter.

Then spring came again, and with it the bee. A few weeks ago while I was out planting flowers as my son played near by, he came buzzing around me again. This time I got mad. I wasn’t going to let the bee hold me hostage in my own yard for another season. Indignant I asked the bee, “Don’t you get that I’m planting more food for you? I’m not trying to take your precious blue Iris and purple Salvia. Who went out almost every hot, sticky evening last summer and watered all those flowers just to keep them alive during the drought? Who pulled up Morning Glory vine after Morning Glory vine to keep them from strangling the roses? If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have these flowers to drink sweet, intoxicating nectar from. LEAVE ME ALONE!”

He circled, gained altitude then flew right at me in a dive-bomb. I bowed my head, closed my eyes and braced myself. The buzz was loud in my ear, I felt the breeze from his wings, then zoom! He pulled-up, banking hard to the left and missing my cheek by a hair. He repeated this again and again, but I sat perfectly still, each time expecting to feel the scorching pain of his stinger in my flesh. But he never stung me. I realized this brazen little bee was all buzz and no fight. It was almost as if he were teasing me. I laughed at him and told him how ridiculous he was, then resumed my gardening. “And another thing,” I said shaking my spade at him, “If you even think of stinging my son I’ll open up a can of Raid on your –,”

“Mommie, who are you talking to?”

Apparently my shouting had distracted my son from the ant hill he was studying.

“Um, uh, nobody. I was just uh…”

He glanced at the bee who was hovering near the Hibiscus tree, another guarded favorite when in bloom.

“Were you talking to the bee? Hi Bee! The bee is my friend. He talks. He says buzz, buzz. I talk to him too sometimes.”

“You do?”

“Uh-uh. I like bees. Hey, bee, come-on! Let’s go watch the ants.” He motioned for the bee to follow him.

Much to my relief the bee stayed put by the tree, and my son went back to watching ants.

I no longer fear the bee. In fact, I admire his courage and determination. I must be a hundred times his size. The odds are stacked against him, yet he doesn’t give up. He is driven by an instinctual confidence in himself and in the importance of his job. I kind of feel sorry for him too. Held captive by fear that something will happen to his precious flowers, he is never relieved from the monotony of his duty.

Now when my son and I go out on the porch and the bee is there, (He is always there) we simply greet him with a nod and a hello. When I’m tending “our” flowers, he gives me an occasional fly-by, as if to say, “I’m watching you.” The bee and I have come to an understanding, mutual respect for the job the other has to do. He is to guard and pollinate my flowers, me to care for them. Yet we each remain slightly suspicious of the other’s true intentions. It is an uncomfortable partnership forced upon us by nature. In our silent contract we’ve agreed; he doesn’t sting me, and I don’t try to kill him.

Yesterday my son and I were out near the flowers again. I was pulling weeds, and this time I heard him talking. I peered around the side of the house to see the bee hovering at eye level about a foot from my son.

I shouted, “David get away from that bee before you get stung!”

He ignored me. “You’re a nice bee. What are you doing? Come one. Let’s play. Tag, you’re it. Come on, chase me!” He ran off looking behind him at the bee, and motioning for it to follow him.

I’m sure I saw the bee look after him longingly for a moment, wanting to be free to soar and play a game of tag. But his precious flowers beckoned him, and he kept me company the rest of the afternoon as I weeded and planted more flowers to guard.


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: