VERNON COUNTY - I’ll bet a lot of folks look forward to the fall equinox. I appreciate the cooler weather, love the colors, and never have minded a yard full of leaves—I enjoy the sound they make when I walk through them.
Dane and I were walking together earlier on this beautiful fall day; Finn and Téte were up ahead of us. Suddenly, I let out an ear-piercing scream and threw my camera to the ground. Dane was stunned. I pointed at my camera and “Aah!”—another yelp. As Dane was trying to make heads or tails out of what was happening, both dogs came running back.
“Look,” I stammered, pointing again to the camera. Dane finally saw it.
“Yellow jacket,” he said, as it flew away. He picked up the camera and we started walking again, me with one hand in my pantsthe second sting was to my hind end. I held my other hand in a fist, covering the first sting below my thumb.
There must have been something about my camera that provoked Ms. Yellow Jacket to sting me—twice.
When we got back home again, Dane didn’t waste any time getting his bee helmet and veil on. It was time to check the new honey super he had put on the hive. A friend had loaned us her extractor and Dane wanted to get an idea of when, or even if, we’d be using it again before the weather turned cold.
I walked out onto the deck and yelled over to Dane, “How’s it going?”
“Not good. The bees are aggravated today.”
This was unusual. Our bees have shown us nothing but kindness. Dane said he was going to close up the hive and wait a few days before checking the other one.
Just then, buzzz! The sound of angry bees was loud in both of my ears. I felt one, then two, then three bees and more, buzzing around in my hair. Breathe, I told myself. Breathing in and I am calm; breathing out and my body relaxes. It didn’t seem to help. First one sting, then another. More bees.
Struggling to maintain a calm tone, I called, “Dane, would you be able to come here and help me? Bees are stuck in my hair and stinging me. I can’t get them out.”
Raime, my oversensitive border collie, was at my feet, and Finn was by the door, crying to get in. Still in his helmet, Dane walked over and tried shooing the bees away, but they had no intention of leaving. Now they were surrounding him, too, and he had already suffered three stings.
I told him I was going in the house, though I knew this wasn’t a good strategy because I’d be taking bees in with me. I opened the door anyway, dimly aware of Raime, Finn, and Dane following.
I turned on the faucet in the bathtub, knelt down, and stuck my head under the cool water. One bee dropped out. Dane looked through my hair and another fell out. One was still buzzing around me. It stung me, then fell to its death outside the tub.
By now, there were bees all over Dane. He got up and said, “I need to get out of here.” Holding my head with one hand, I grabbed a towel with the other and threw it over me as I followed him out of the bathroom.
Buzzz, buzzz! There were bees on the windows and bees buzzing around me and Raime, who wouldn’t let me out of his sight. I rolled up a paper and smack, smack, smack, smack, four bees were dead. I felt awful killing them, but I was in pain and low on choices. Whack, whack, whack! I smacked three more. My head was throbbing, Raime was tripping me, and I couldn’t see where Finn was.
Dane came back into the house and reported that the bees were still flying and still angry.
“Where is Téte?” I asked.
Dane headed out looking for her while I ran water as cold as I could get it, wrung out a washcloth in it, and held it on my stings. Looking out the window, I saw Dane take off his shirt and start swinging it. What a crazy day! So much for kind bees.
Dane got in the car and started it up, hoping to coax Téte from wherever she was hiding. She crawled out from under the porch, her tail between her legs, her whole body quaking with every step. Dane grabbed her collar and led her into the house, where she collapsed on the floor, panting. We had no idea if she’d been stung or was just scared. Meanwhile, Finn was hiding under my desk, his little body shaking.
What a mess we were! What a day it had been, and it wasn’t even 2 p.m. I knew we needed to relax and get everyone calmed down. One of the three stings on the back of my head seemed overly painful, and I kept applying the cold washrag to it.
As we all started to breathe more easily, I had a moment to reflect. It’s impossible to know what each day will bring when living a life surrounded by life. Most days here are peaceful, with the goats and Louisa hanging out under the crab apple tree, the ducks and geese splashing in the hidey hole, Téte napping in her wicker chair on the porch, the cats snoozing on the woodpile or in their baskets on the swing, and the donkeys lying side by side in a sunny spot in their pasture.
I’m thankful that not every day is as insane as today was. I’m thankful that 364 days out of the year we have the kindest bees I’ve ever known.