A hive for the honey bee
“Ouch, I’ve been stung”, I said, looking down to see a bee stuck to the leg of my corduroy jeans. “Ouch, I’ve been stung”, my friend’s younger brother mirrored behind me. “There’s no need to mock”, I said, before feeling another sharp prick, this time on the back of my hand. It was only then that I heard the low hum of the hive and realised that we were completely surrounded by bees.
Suddenly, they were all over my head, stinging and stinging. I turned and ran, as did my companions behind me, each scattering for our respective homes. I screamed and shook my head as I ran but the bees were stuck in my hair and they continued to sting me. I ran past the kitchen window and was met by my father at the front door, a look of panic on his face. He wheeled me into the kitchen where my mother started to gently comb the bees from my hair.
She turned pale as she saw the number of bees dropping to the floor. Worried that I might either go into shock or develop a reaction, my father, who was a garda (policeman), bundled me into his squad car and, sirens blazing, raced me to the local doctor. I don’t remember anything of that 6 mile journey or at what point the stinging stopped. I know the doctor gave me a shot, probably an antihistamine, and I was brought home to bed.
Years later I was sunbathing in the garden when my mother called me into the house. I reached for my t-shirt to dress before going inside. There must have been a bee on that t-shirt because as soon as I put it on I could hear the darkly familiar hum coming from my hair. I panicked. At the time I was reading Watership Down, a tome of a book. In an attempt to get the bee before it got me, I picked up the book and started whacking myself on the head. (This was probably quite surprising and amusing to any onlookers, but not to me.) Unfortunately I failed and I was stung yet again in the head. I arrived into my mother teary-eyed, shaking from head to toe.
As you can imagine, as a result of these childhood experiences I have a major fear of bees. Which is why it might seem strange, even to myself, that I am currently considering getting a beehive and keeping honey bees.
We use quite a bit of honey for my granola and on pancakes as well as in marinades and drinks. We eat only raw, single-source honey from one of our local beekeepers and it’s not particularly cheap – about €4.50 (US$ 4.90) for a half-kilo (1 lb) jar. I also use beeswax in my body butters and lip balms. Given that there’s just two of us our honey and beeswax needs alone would not justify keeping a hive. The real benefit is environmental. I won’t claim to be an expert, but I have read many articles on how bee numbers worldwide are diminishing at an alarming rate and the impact this is having on pollination of flowers and plants. While most pollination is done by solitary bees rather than honey bees, honey bees can still contribute to the success of your vegetables and other plants.
The skin on my head has tightened just typing this post so I might need some rehab before I launch into getting my own hive. A number of people in our village keep bees so perhaps I should start by visiting their hives and seeing how they manage their bees. I’d be surprised if I can make it past the gate at first, but maybe over time my fears might subside and I might add a small hive to our self-sufficient little homestead.
Any tips on getting past my fear of bees would be very much appreciated!