For the past three days, helicopters have flown low over the area, usually in the mornings. The timber company across the creek is either thinning trees or clear-cutting, so maybe they’re checking the progress. During the fly-overs today, hubby was checking hives across the road at the neighbor’s sunflower field and I was checking some of our hives — we both found out that bees don’t like helicopters.
It’s interesting to listen to the recording of my hive inspection because there is a clear change in the tone and volume of the bee buzzes after the chopper made the first pass. The bees were nervous at that point, but not too aggressive. After the second pass, the bees just boiled out of the hive and started stinging in a way that I have never experienced before. I was able to fend off some by pulling my BDUs away from my legs, but I ended up with 8 stings — a record for me. Even more unusual was that a handful of bees followed me all the way back to the RV and kept up with me driving at 12 mph on the ATV!
We wish we could find out when any future flights are likely to take place so that we could schedule hive inspections around them. We both know that if we hear a chopper coming and we’re in a hive, we’re going to end that inspection there and then and get the hive put back together.
To end on a positive note, 7 of the hives we inspected today are full of nectar. This time last year, we were in a drought and had to feed sugar water to sustain the hives. Sunflowers and sourwood trees are blooming and our bees are clearly taking advantage of all the resources they can find. We may even be able to pull some more honey before the end of summer.
There’s nothing quite as unnerving while working on a hive on a hot day as wondering whether what you feel is a drop of sweat running down your leg or a bee wandering around like a lost and irritated soul inside your pants — unless it’s hearing a loud buzzing around your head and realizing that there is an angry bee is inside your veil! There’s also nothing quite as amusing to listen to when transcribing hive inspections from Voice Recorder than hearing:
“Is that sweat?”
“Bee in the pants, bee in the pants, bee in the pants….”
….with a rising pitch and a falling volume as I leave the area as quickly as possible while trying to walk in a way that does not make the bee any less happy than it already is!
Over the years, I’ve beat myself around the head with a bunch of lemon grass, had hubby hit me on the head, dropped trou in the bee yard, and hurriedly fought with zippers and Velcro while trying to watch a bee about 2 inches from my nose! Most of the time, this doesn’t result in a sting, but yesterday’s bee in the pants episode followed 2 stings through the pants, so we skipped checking additional hives today!
This is the first year our bees have had the propensity to crawl up our boots and into our pant legs! Tucking our pants into our boots has not worked well, because the bees then end up in our boots — stings on the feet or stings on the thigh? We ordered some blousing garters from Amazon yesterday to see if we can keep them out that way!
Come to think of it, I haven’t had any bees sting me from inside my pants, but I’m sure I’ll feel better knowing that there’s a greater chance of them staying outside my clothes.
Now, bees won’t sting unless provoked, because a bee that stings subsequently dies, unlike those pesky yellow-jackets that set up home in our gate. We have one hive with irritable bees, but most of the others are generally very well behaved. However, one hive yesterday had expanded honey stores to beyond what would fit well in the space available, so when I removed the first frame to check it, I broke the cappings that protected the honey. Bees don’t like people messing with their honey. I guess it’s the same as a hacker raiding my bank account or someone breaking into the house and emptying my pantry! I can’t blame them for being angry, so I’m quite content to apply Stops the Sting and ice packs a couple of times a day and go about my business! Past experiences have shown me that my body doesn’t deal well with too many stings at the same time, so that’s the main reason to postpone hive checks for a day.
Neither avoiding the hives nor these stings have slowed us down any. We’re making progress cleaning up the loading deck. As that’s where the trees were trimmed prior to being loaded on trucks, we have a lot of small branches or even tree trunks all over the place that hide in the tall weeds and make using the bush-hog difficult. We’ve settled on weed-eating paths into the weeds to expose logs and stumps before hubby bush-hogs just to protect our equipment. With weeds that are well over 8 feet tall in places, we just have to do that this year. Now that we have our own tractor, we’ll be able to maintain areas of the land that we need to keep clear and avoid getting lost in the jungle! It’s slower and more tedious work than re-clearing areas that hubby previously cleared, but we are seeing progress. As the tree canopies increase, the undergrowth will become less of a problem, but we’ll have somewhat of a battle on our hands for the rest of this year.
When we were visiting family in Texas this summer, my husband was stung on the forehead by some red wasps that he was attempting to evict from his aunt’s house soffit. We were both surprised when his aunt exclaimed that she was going to get the toothpaste and disappeared into the house. We were even more surprised when smearing toothpaste on the sting relieved his pain.
Then, a few weeks ago, my brother-in-law kindly loaned me a bee-hat so that I could get a little closer to the action when he and my husband were working his hives. The day before, the bees had already shown their dislike of dark colors by dive bombing my husband’s black baseball cap the moment he plonked it on my head. So, the following day, with my head safely ensconced in a white cover and face-protection, they decided to go after a different dark item — my navy-blue thermal shirt! That was my first bee sting since childhood and considerably less painful than I anticipated. (But still something to avoid, when possible.) We were too far from the house to make fetching toothpaste seem worth while, but the bees had fired a warning shot.
You would think that would be a lesson that would stick with me, but apparently I’m a little slow today. Now that I have my own bee suit and gloves, I headed out with my husband to put new fondant in our hives and to see if there was any left from the batch we placed in a week ago. My husband lifted the lid on the least populated hive, and I got to see a wonderfully healthy cluster of bees through the hole in the top cover. Then I got to see that they had eaten almost all of the fondant, and then they let me know very clearly that a bee suit may protect my face and hands, but wearing thermal weave, dark pants is inviting them to find the weakness in my defense. Of course, they went after the largest and most obvious target area and I was subsequently able to gain first-hand experience about the effectiveness of toothpaste on bee stings.
While cooking a new batch of fondant for the ungrateful little critters, I researched reasons why toothpaste would actually help soothe stings. According to Rapid Home Remedies, the alkalinity of toothpaste neutralizes the acidity of the venom in the bee sting. Apparently fire ants have an alkaline venom, so toothpaste probably will not work on those. I’ll let you know next summer….
The new batch of fondant is cooling, and the kitchen smells are invigorating. First of all, the smell of the boiling sugar water reminded me suddenly and very strongly of memories of my mother making red-currant jelly. I guess the lemon juice in the mixture is what transported me back to my childhood home. Now the smell of the lemon grass in the Honey B Healthy I mixed into the fondant pervades the kitchen and makes the stress in my life just float away. It smells so good that my husband recently felt compelled to tell me that the label clearly warns against human consumption! The bees love the smell even more than I do, so it’s a good way to attract them to supplemental food supplies when there’s a dearth of plants to provide pollen and nectar. Toothpaste and bee vitamins — what a weird mix of components to make a day on which I got stung still simply perfect!