My life with bees

With spring coming, the bees will soon be buzzing everywhere. And I always do my best to avoid their acquaintance! Trouble is, they seem to like me, even flying right up in my face when I’m sitting on the porch. If the swatting while I’m sitting gets to be too active, I resign myself to the house, regretfully.

During my childhood on the farm, they visited me just as often — and took time to sit down when they came. The first I remember was my introduction to the fattest bumble bee on the planet. I was about 4 years old and playing in our front yard. We had a long sidewalk stretching from where we parked the vehicles to the front porch steps. I loved to either run that walkway or ride my tricycle up and down it. On this particular day, Mr. Bumble Bee was traveling the same path, and he and I collided somewhere in the middle.

I remember screaming for my mother because I had never experienced anything like that sting. As a result of it, we learned that I was very allergic to bee stings. In this instance, both my eyes swelled almost completely shut and remained that way for a couple of days. And my fear of bumble bees was ingrained and reigns to this day.

Wasps hold a similar position for me. I have encountered them much more often than my one visit from the bumble bee. In the out-buildings on the farm, they were prevalent. We had a wood shed just behind the house when I was quite young. My sister, Juanita, and I used to play there in the sawdust.

This day, when I was about nine and Juanita six, Mother and I heard her screaming. As we ran to the shed, we could see a swarm of wasps, flying in all directions, and Juanita caught in the middle, being stung over and over. She had stirred a huge nest and just stood, not moving at all to get away from them. I immediately knew the consequences of helping my sister, but I couldn’t just let her stand there. In I dove, with wasps flying in all directions, grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the shed.

Needless to say, Mother spent the next hour doctoring our many stings with camphophenique. I remember swatting at them as I ran in and ended up with most stings on my face and arms. Juanita, on the other hand, never played in the wood shed again.

Entertaining ourselves in some fashion on the farm was just about the extent of our social life. Luckily, on one occasion, our city cousin, Dana, invited Juanita and me to go roller skating at the rink that used to be in South Elkins, the Dornblazer building. We tried to stay busy and occupied that day and couldn’t wait for Dana to come and get us.

During the afternoon, Mother sent me to the cellar for a jar of something or other. I trekked there, opened the door and promptly stepped on a big wasp. I was, of course, barefooted, always barefooted. The swelling began, I recall vividly, in my foot, worked its way to my ankle, and finally all the way to my knee. And with it, my disappointment because I knew that swelling would last at least a day.

No roller skating for the Piercy girls that night — not unless I could manage the skates on one leg!

Living in the country and in an old farmhouse, we, of course, got bees in the house all the time. We kept the fly swatter handy for them and the house flies. One particular night, Juanita and I went to bed, one shared in the upstairs of the house. I was asleep but gradually felt something uncomfortable in the sheets on the bed. I remember ignoring it at first because I wasn’t completely awake.

Then the pain hit, and I leaped from the bed, turned back the sheets, and, you guessed.

A huge wasp gave me a dose of his best because he wanted out! In fact, I got several doses before I finally awoke. I checked the bed for years after that.

Today, I read everywhere about the invaluable need for bees and their pollenation. I, personally, know it to be true. I stopped planting my garden because I had absolutely no product for three years. No product because no bees. Gorgeous bean plants, dark green cuke vines, 6-foot corn. Bloom everywhere but not a bee in sight.

So, as much as I fear them, I know they are necessary. We best pray the bee situation –honey bees, bumble bees — improves if we want to eat. And be thankful for those who are doing something about it.