My wife chose a good time to be out of town. Tuesday, (yesterday as I’m writing this), we came close to a record high here in the Phoenix area – 119. It was so hot that even the bees decided to take a swim in our pool.
Bees are no different than the rest of us, they need water. During their foraging for pollen and water, they very often find the swimming pool. Especially in areas that have seasonal droughts, if you have a swimming pool, you’re likely going to have a few occasional bees. When I went out today for a dip in the pool, I saw two small honey bees on top of the water, struggling to get out. As I always do, I retrieved the small net we use to skim debris off the top of the pool and scooped out the little guys. Then I placed them in the shade, on one of our flowering plants. Sometimes they survive and sometimes not, but by placing them in the flower beds, (versus the hot concrete), at least I’m giving them a fighting chance.
Bees are important to all of us and they are threatened. Scientists aren’t exactly certain why their numbers are shrinking but in general they’re associating the losses to a combination of factors like pesticides, disease, loss of habitat and possibly even climate change. In a recent 12 month period, beekeepers reported losing more than 40% of their colonies. Needless to say, this is an important subject to all of humanity. Saving bees from drowning in my pool is the least I can do given all they do for me. After all, I’m a coffee junky and I use honey as my sweetener. I guess I could switch to sugar if it came to that but what if my wife lost her wine, (she needs it to put up with me). That’s right, we rely on bees and other insects and birds to pollinate almost all of our crops, including our grapes!
As I was scooping out my two little guys, I started to think about bees and, more specifically, my own personal thoughts about, and history with the little guys. Even in the Prytania alley we had our ‘Bees’. Our bees though was a little girl named Christy. Bees was just a nickname given to Christy by her brothers. Chris was the baby of the family, the youngest of the Mathews’ nine children. I’ve written a few stories involving some of the Mathews, stories like the time we had a run in with Cujo (link) and of course there was my young teen heartthrob Diane (link). Bees was just a ‘baby’ to us older kids but she had plenty of other girls in the alley her age, (my sisters and Monique come to mind). The brother closest in age to her, (Rich), used to lovingly tickle and poke her, calling out “Bees”. This would always be followed by a loud “Leave me alone, Rich!” I used to know how she got that nickname, but not anymore, it’s just another lost memory at this point.
Besides my junior high school gym teacher’s nickname of “Mr B”, I have, however, managed to retain a couple of other ‘bee memories’.
Recently we sold our California house and moved to Arizona. It was a huge downsizing that included selling both of my vehicles. One of those was my motorcycle; a Yamaha VStar 650 that I used for commuting back and forth to work. I learned to ride a motorcycle even before driving a car and I had been riding to work for the past 15 years or so.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, riding a motorcycle is dangerous. I’m a very careful rider so, (thankfully), I never had a significant close call. I followed a 12 second rule, (looking ahead 12 seconds of travel time), I studied oncoming danger points, planned an emergency exit and thought about what my composure needed to be should something unexpected happen, like maybe a bug getting caught in my helmet (and this usually happened at least once a year).
So I always had a plan; should a stinging insect get into my helmet, I would just have to ‘maintain my coolness’, (as my dad used to always say), take the stinging and get pulled off the road as safely as possible. A few stings are much easier to handle than broken bones or death. My composure was tested one day in 2003 while riding home from work in Ohio when a stinging insect got sucked into my jacket.
Ouch, ouch, hey!
Something was attacking me inside my jacket, on my back. I was near home on highway 129 so I did as planned. I pulled off of the next exit and made a quick right hand turn into a convenient market’s parking lot. After putting down my kickstand and getting off my bike, I was then able to freak out. NOW was the time I was allowed to lose my cool. I was wearing a loose fitting jacket and I guess that was the cause as it managed to serve as a giant scoop, able to suck in unsuspecting bees. The bee, up to his last dying breath, was able to provide sufficient payback. That crap about only being able to sting one time? Well then, I must have had Super Bee because I had no less than 3 stings, (or bites?).
Another fascinating aspect about bees is their ability to communicate with each other. You’ve probably seen National Geographic or some other nature program where the bee finds a healthy supply of flowers and then goes back to the hive, jiggles around and buzzes wildly? Somehow, all this jiggling and buzzing tells the other bees exactly what they need to know and where they need to go, (sort of like when my wife jiggles in front of me).
My speculation is that I must have had two bees in my jacket and that one of them escaped. That’s right – escaped and somehow figured out how to make a beehive wanted poster of me because one of them managed to find me shortly after we left Ohio and moved to California. The word got spread and they did indeed find me.
Summer of 2009. Kim and I were golfing with our friends, the Winterlings. We had just finished up hole #2, (current hole 2), at our country club, Cameron Park (link). We were all walking that day and perhaps that made it easier for the ninja bee that got sent out on the mission to find me. Find me it did on the next tee box. This tee box is the same hole I have aced once, (seen in the pic).
No sooner than stepping onto the tee box I felt something quickly crawling up inside my pant leg. I didn’t know that it was a bee yet, all I knew was that a fast moving insect was quickly approaching the boys! I had to act fast. What to do, reach inside and try to scoop the critter out? Smash it against my pant leg? What if it’s a bee or wasp?
I decided to toss all modesty aside. Ok, I’m lying – there was no real decision making going on, this was all about reflexes and survival! Just as modesty has no place in a hospital gown, modesty has no place when bees are crawling up one’s legs! Faster than a jack rabbit on a date, I ripped open my belt and dropped my pants. Meanwhile, my golf partners and my wife were all cracking up, watching me practice my survival skills.
Ha! Good try, Mr. Bee. I managed to stop the mission midway up the inside of my right thigh. Mr. Bee, seeing he was going to be stopped short of his ultimate bombing location, decided to detonate on my thigh, only a second before I had a chance to scrape him off and onto the ground. As I watched him live out his final seconds, I felt only remorse. We could have been friends, Mr. Bee.
Fortunately, I am not allergic to bees. I have no known allergies to pollen, medications or drugs, (though I confess that I detest being around cigarette smoke and negativity). Honestly, I cannot even recall ever getting poison ivy on my skin though I know I had to have come into contact with it hundreds of times as a kid while climbing through the many jungles of Hamiltucky. This is a little bit surprising to me given a family history of various skin disorders, (I myself experience a touch of symptoms from psoriasis on my scalp). But try to take me down as they may, I continue to view the bees as our friends.
If you’d like to know how you can help our fuzzy little friends, this site has a few suggestions:
Where, oh where would we be without bees? I guess I can take a few more stings.