Bad day for my hands. Did you ever notice that certain body parts seem to take a turn at being injured repeatedly? Today it was both hands. My right wrist was just feeling normal after the face-plant I did two Saturday’s ago.
I took off early this morning to help a friend with a hive inspection. His bees are from the same stock as mine, the little blonde beauties. I did dress more conservatively than in my last few posts, I had to open the store and it was chilly this morning. The two stings I sustained were totally related and a lesson. First to be hit was that right wrist. A lady bee was perusing my fore-arm, depositing yellow bee poop and generally exploring. My bracelets slipped down and trapped her in the cuff of my glove. I don’t blame her for becoming frightened and disoriented.
Unfortunately, when a honey bee stings, she dies as the stinger rips out her guts and even more unfortunately, she releases a scent. To me it smells like over-ripe bananas. To other bees it signals, “Danger! STING this THING!” I moved quietly but quickly away from the hive, not however, before another bee aimed her butt into my left index finger. The actual sting is not overly painful at the time, the reaction of my body to the toxins is mildly uncomfortable.
To add insult to injury, I sliced said left index finger this evening as I was cutting up crusty bread to dip in oils and herbs for dinner.
Though I didn’t get any photos of the neighbor’s hive, I felt strong and wise after the weekend visit to my hives with my mentors, Jodi and Dean from Imagine That Honey. Dean was chief photographer and Jodi guided me through a total, “take-everything-apart-and-reconstruct-it” hive inspection. They were early and I was just coming back from errands and riding. For once, I was 99% covered in tall boots and a sensible polo shirt.
My only concern was having not had time to shower before intruding on the bee’s world. They are very hygienic and react poorly to body odor and bad breath. I guess the barn smell was acceptable to them. Each step of the way, I learned to watch carefully what the bees were doing and to look for signals of health and happiness in their sweet-smelling universe.
Jodi was relentless in her pursuit of how to help the hives thrive. We discovered two very young queens; they will need time to continue to build the number of workers. The good news is there are queens and, to Jodi’s amazement, an extremely strong nectar flow. She said most hives are seeing a slowing of nectar as is typical for late July. Mine was chock full. There is also plenty of honey. Under Jodi’s tutelage we took our time and sometimes walked out into the middle of the yard to find the perfect light for viewing the frames.
My friend’s hives appeared to have suffered similar episodes of swarming and rebuilding with a new queen. They were healthy but not as robust as one would want to see by this time of year. I wish Jodi had been there looking over my shoulder to guide and explain. I felt knowledgable enough to guide him through a preliminary inspection until the stings drove me from the hive house. Best not to hang around once the warning has gone up.
So I now count three stings in the short time I’ve been bee keeping. That is a frequent first question from folks who learn I’m a bee keeper, “How many times have you been stung?” I can honestly say, “Never by my own bees…”