I grew up on a farm. Most of my childhood was spent outside playing with my siblings or helping with chores. Needless to say, I was exposed to the “elements” at a young age, and I certainly wasn’t afraid of bugs or critters (so long as they weren’t in my bed). Bites and rashes and cuts and bruises were just part of the daily routine as a kid on the farm. I was only stung once – or rather twice at once – by a couple of yellow jackets after I ran over a bridge under which their nest was built. But this experience aside, I was never really phased by bees; especially pretty little bumble or honey bees that I knew didn’t want to harm anyone (unlike mischievous wasps).
This little bee has an orange pollen granule attached to its leg – probably from a dandelion!
Regardless of my exposure to bugs, I had an unsettling feeling in my stomach when Danny and Ginette (owners of Paradis Valley Honey and my bosses) asked if I wanted to come tour an actual bee yard. Of course I wanted to! I knew it was nothing to be afraid of; I knew there would be a thrill and a satisfaction to it. But the idea of marching into an airfield of hundreds of thousands of honeybees was like no experience I had ever imagined myself getting into.
Before approaching the bees, we parked a ways away to be able to suit up in peace. Danny assured me that the bees were feeding, and were very calm as a result. So calm, he said, that I could probably walk into them without a suit on. I wasn’t about to take my chances. From where I could see, the bees didn’t look too inviting.
He handed me a pair of long gloves that I gladly pulled all the way up to my elbows. But upon seeing my camera, he offered me a pair of tiny blue neoprene gloves to more easily snap photos. Without hesitation, I requested to keep the heavy-duty gloves instead and insisted they’d work just fine! Ginette applied a couple small pieces of duct tape to the suit’s zipper openings – just in case – and taped the bottom of my pants to my boots. I was ready.
Bees can be calm?
Moments later, I found myself walking into a loud, constant hum. I remember Ginette telling me to look up. THOUSANDS of bees flew rapidly above me, around me, beside me, and yes, even landed on me. But Danny was right… they seemed… calm! I watched as the other beekeepers at the yard site checked on the hives’ health and replenished the feeders. The bees weren’t attacking anyone. They seemed to barely notice anything was happening at all! They went about their business, and we went about ours. It was so exhilarating!
Don’t I look relaxed?