I know, I just posted one blog (a lot for me this time of year, as you all know). But I simply must post something about our bees. I think I’ve mentioned that they are all named “Margaret”, even the boys. This is a story of how I fell in love with Margaret. About 160,000 of them.
You need to know that I’ve spent most of my sixty-two-plus years being wacky-terrified of stinging creatures. I used to run madly for safety at every buzzing sound, even if it turned out to be a common house fly or even a glorious little hummingbird.
I don’t remember being unduly stung as a child; in fact, I don’t think I was ever stung at all. I suppose it’s hard for a stingy-thing to creep into attack position when I was so practiced at tearing for cover. So I have no idea where my near-phobic fear got a toehold in my psyche. Maybe it was the afternoon I watched my next door neighbor bite into his egg salad sandwich, inside which a yellow-jacket had taken up residence. Now, really, that had to hurt a lot.
But something changed for me when I began to work in the garden. For one thing, jumping and running gets old really fast when you are surrounded by bees and wasps of all ilk (to say nothing of flies and hummingbirds), and your knees are a lot less mobile than they used to be. I guess the situation became something of “immersion training”. Of course my fear didn’t disappear all at once, but over time my nervous escapes changed to easy steps backward. Then even those disappeared.
Last week I was smooshed in between three tomato cages, bent at the waist with my head buried in the greens, seeking the elusive late-summer Borghese. I slowly became aware that about twenty bumblebees, working feverishly to gather in the last of the year’s rich nectar and pollen crops, were buzzing all around my head. I wondered idly if I appeared to be some kind of huge competitor for the goodies.
Instinctively I went about my own work, moving gently. I have learned to work peacefully alongside my buzzy, stingy neighbors. I appreciate their precious contribution to “our” gardens. Occasionally I even wonder how I could have been so frightened of such small, amazing creatures.
I have been stung, of course; last year I unintentionally belted a bald-faced hornets’ nest with a heavy branch I was removing, and the furious little protectors chased me long enough for one of them to land a direct hit on my wrist. And I do watch where I put my hands when harvesting. Grabbing a bee or wasp is bound to upset it enough to earn a good sting.
But it was the Margarets who completed my conversion from stingy-thingy-hater to stingy-thingy-lover. The Margarets, who lose their life when they sting. The Margarets, who have the most intricate, complex life. The Margarets, who produce the most fabulous honey you can imagine.