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The Last Windrow: No fan of bees

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Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! (Expletives deleted to protect the innocent!)

That was my reaction last week as I was crawling through my electrified garden fence. No, I did not touch the wire. I was stung by two bald face hornets in the fat part of my hand between my thumb and first finger.

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The bees lingered there, implanting me with their venom while I slapped them into their eternal home.

But, they left their mark and it took a week for the swelling to recede.

I am not a favorite of bees. I know some of them are essential to the existence of human life, but there are others that have no seeming function other than to sting an unsuspecting human being or other animal. In fact, I really love good bees. They pollinate our garden, make honey and keep the wheels of agriculture greased. I have no argument with any of the beneficial types.

This time of year seems to bring yellow jackets, bald face hornets and wasps to our doorsteps. Are they telling us that just around the corner frost will end their forays? Yes, I think that is part of it. They are seeking a place to procreate and hibernate and we humans provide them with perfect opportunities.

My first experience with a bee sting came from my sister. We were playing on the upstairs deck of our farmhouse when Betty happened to grab hold of the railing. I don't think I was trying to push her off the deck or anything, but when she grabbed the railing, two large hornets sunk their stingers into her fingers.

There was an instant scream, which brought my mother up the steps probably thinking that I had done some harm to her daughter. In a gusher of tears Betty held up her now swollen hand to show her mother. Ice was applied instantly and I remember my sister being toted to a neighbor's farm to see if anything else could be applied.

Somehow she survived.

Some of you know what "bucking hay" is. That method of harvesting loose hay was accomplished by attaching a large contraption to the front end of a tractor. The rig featured long, wooden "teeth" that pushed and gathered hay into a pile on the rig. The hay was then lifted and hauled to a haystack.

I was bucking hay one day and at the end of each row a small pile of hay remained to be picked up the next day. The next morning I rammed the buck into one of those piles and instantly I felt like someone had taken a ball bat and hit me twice on the top of my hat-less head.

A hive of wild bees had moved into that pile overnight and I left the scene, leaving the Model A John Deere running wide open in the middle of the field and my dad standing atop the stack wondering why his son was running across the hayfield swinging his arms in the air.

We crept up to the tractor after dark that night, poured some gas into the now empty tractor tank, quickly started the John Deere, backed the tractor out of the pile and tossed the rest of the gas into the hay pile and lit it up! End of that bee story.

I thought of that pile of hay the other evening when I felt my left hand go numb and saw those two hornets inserting their stingers into my flesh. And you wonder why I don't like certain bees? It is that time of year.

See you next time. Okay?

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