Wednesday, July 2, 2014

feeling buzzed

First, let the record show: I like bees. But somewhere along the way, the bees decided they didn't like me. Maybe they think I am a threat. Maybe they just think I smell bad. In any case, for the past week, I have been plagued by bees, and it's making it hard to get any work done on the farm.

honey bees: not very sweet
It all started last week, as I was finishing hand-weeding my fourth bed of winter squash. A bee came and started buzzing around my head, close to my ears and hairline. At first I just ignored it, thinking it would move on when it discovered I didn't make pollen. But instead the buzzing intensified, until I started to worry the bee might have gotten stuck in my hair or hat band. I stood up to see if the bee followed, and it did, with a sound of outright bee fury. Then—a fierce sting, right on my temple. I must have looked comical, falling over in the row of squash, my hat flying from my head.

Luckily, I am not allergic to bees, and I have never been afraid of them either. So after taking a minute to use the truck mirror and remove the stinger, I returned to the squash bed, determined to finish weeding the row. Within seconds, another bee came, and started buzzing around my head with the same intensity as the last one! I ran from the field, and it chased me all the way back to my truck.

Now, the word's out: this girl stinks. Every time I've returned to my farm, the bees have chased me out of the field. I'm sure it doesn't help that the temperatures have been hotter than usual, and I'm also sure it's no good that I'm running. But frankly, after one sting in the head (and the following week of puffy-faced itchiness), I'm not too eager for more.

witness: my "bee's friend" planting, about to bloom.

 Which brings us to yesterday, when Vladimir, my neighboring farmer and beekeeper, saw me running from my field, chased by a tiny fury. He came over to see what was wrong. Since he speaks very little English and I speak no Russian, the resulting conversation was full of exaggerated hand gestures and monosyllabic words in English and Russian, but I think we both got our points across. My part went something like this: "Bees good. I work. Bees bad. I run."

Vladimir mimed that bees get excited about sweat, and that makes them "bad." He offered me a lighter straw hat to try, and I returned to work. That only lasted about 5 seconds before another bee identified its enemy and zoomed in for the kill. As Vladimir stood next to me, (with not a single bee dive-bombing him) he hid a small smile. Then he revealed his superpower. With lightening speed, he reached out and snatched the bee right out of the air! He held it by its wings and showed it to me—yep, a honeybee alright—then squished it and dropped it on the ground.

That's when he offered me the solution to all my problems. He walked over to his truck and rummaged around, then pulled out his beekeeping hat and offered it to me. At a loss, I shrugged and let him show me how to put it on. "You working," he said, pointing towards my field. And so, at last, I did.

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