bee stories

A bee in the bra is worth a dozen anywhere else

There's nothing worse than a bee in the bra, especially when you're wearing it.

Like it or not, stings are a regular part of beekeeping. But for me, nothing is worse than a bee in the bra and the realization that I’m not alone in my clothes.

Inside: Here’s the memorable story about the day I found a bee in the bra—the one I was wearing.

The single bee that freaked me out

Seriously. I work with bees a lot. I get stung a lot. But from time to time a single honey bee totally freaks me out.

Yesterday was cold, but I’ve been doing some experiments with moisture control and I wanted to check my hives for dampness before it got even colder—something predicted for the weekend.

I was wearing a bee jacket and veil. Normally I don’t wear protective gear in the winter for quick checks, but I’ve been getting stung a lot lately and I didn’t want a swollen face for the weekend. So I put my bee jacket over two sweatshirts and a tee shirt and called it good enough; my winter jacket just wouldn’t fit under there.

Long about the third hive, an irritated guard nailed me on the wrist. It hurt too. No, I thought, the previous last sting-of-the-year wasn’t the last one after all.

I kept working and the rest of the job was uneventful. It was really cold though, so I collected an armload of wood before I went inside. I built a fire and stood close to the wood stove hoping to thaw my fingers.

Something moving under my shirt

After a moment I felt something wet under my shirt. I scrooched around in my clothes hoping to dry it. A moment later I felt it again, so I pulled my shirts up from the waist. I couldn’t see anything unusual so I yanked them back down and decided it was just the cold.

As the fire got warmer I felt the wet sensation yet again. This time I pulled my shirts out from the neck and looked down. A miasma of alarm pheromone hit my nose. It confused me at first, and then I realized I was not alone in my shirts. I bunched up the fabric in my fists. Although I am not normally a bee killer, this was getting personal.

After a moment, I pulled on the neck of my shirts again and had another look. Then I freaked. She was in my bra, right where . . . where . . . oh, never mind. Let’s just say she had no business being where she was bee-ing.

I wanted to negotiate: please sting somewhere else!

Negotiation quickly entered my mind: I wanted to barter and compromise. I was willing to sacrifice my other wrist or maybe an arm or ankle to this marauding heathen but please not there! She was equally freaked and running in a tight little circle. I realized the wood stove was warming her into a frenzy.

Fit to be tied, I pulled off the bee jacket, sweatshirt number one, sweatshirt number two, the t-shirt, and the bra. I tossed them on the floor. I could hear myself make a little whiny noise as I wriggled out of each successive garment. My cat sat a cautious distance away, watching me with his head cocked. I told him where he could stuff it.

She finally decided sacrificing her life wasn’t worth it

In the end, nothing happened. The bee flew off in the house somewhere. The cat circled his tail, bored once more. I got dressed. This morning I found the bee marching across a blanket, blithely unaware of her extraordinary powers of intimidation.

I carried her up to her hive, set her on the landing board, and watched as she casually walked inside. Lucky her, lucky me, she lived to see another day.

Honey Bee Suite

The bee in the bra: Here's a portrait of the culprit after I released her from my bra.
The bee in the bra: Here’s a portrait of the culprit after I released her from my bra.

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  • Thanks so much for the laugh and the visual. It’s funny how us beekeepers can be so nonchalant about getting stung most times then, totally freak out when a bee finds her way up your pantleg. My dad had one get up his pantleg and into his pubic hair on one trip to an apiary this past summer. He dropped trousers right there in front of God and everybody to extract her. The panicked expression on his face was legendary. My stomach hurt from laughing. Happy new year.
    ps Surely your last sting of the year can’t be far off now!

  • Last June after removing some drone comb the bees were very upset with me. I had sort of forgotten about it a couple hours later when I took my dogs out to the backyard to do their business. But the bees had not forgotten-a couple of them went after me & got in my hair. I HATE that! I threw the dog leashes into the air & made a run for it into the house. I got stung in the middle of my forehead, & when I got inside my 7 year old informed me that I had a bloody nose. Self inflicted, I’m pretty sure. I’m not proud to say I made him retrieve the dogs from the yard…

    • Susan,

      I agree that getting them in your hair is the worst! It happens to me all the time and it’s nearly impossible to get them out. They just keep burrowing through until they get you.

  • I’m enjoying your blog! LOL, I’m so glad to read that I’m not the only one that gets chased by angry girls! They don’t forget a face either it seems ;)I have to stay inside a day or two after hive inspections or wear my head gear if I need to plant or cut grass. Before inspections though you’d never know they were here, except for happily buzzzing around. I’ve had times when they’ve been up my legs as well.

  • When my friend I were getting my bees into my hive (a split given to me by a generous friend) I had an audience standing a distance away, and my dad was among them. My dad didn’t know drones cannot sting, so when a clueless drone was put on him he went crazy, flailing and hitting himself while the drone clumsily moseyed on his shirt, unaffected. Priceless.

    I wasn’t laughing when I was running around my yard because I could here a mad buzzing coming at me. Then I realized it was stuck in my hair. Amazingly, I wasn’t stung. This is my first year, and I’ve yet to be stung.

  • Happy New Year all. Reading this, I couldn’t help but note various points which gel with my own experiences. The bees – and any ants, mosquitos, even fleas from cat owners I happen to sit next to – all make the proverbial beeline for me. My partner remains stingless. She did however point gleefully at the stray bee crawling around my most sensitive area when I doffed gear after giving the hives winter fuel a week or so ago, and laughed uproariously at my anguish. Of course, this was a chilled bee and therefore easy to squash (no apologies – it was me or the bee, as far as I was concerned). However, I have learned by experience that attempting to swat a defending and therefore fully-warmed up bee will result in a sting – they are simply that much faster than us…

  • Rusty,

    It seems you have had a few unclothing episodes caused by your little honeys. My worse case was I entered the bee yard with fingerless wool gloves. We were in the process of receiving hives coming from the south and being picked up by local hobbyists for their spring build up. I felt a few stings on the hand which didn’t immediately registered in the old brain that I was being attacked. Once, I fully realized what was happening, I peeled off both gloves that had at least 50 or more bees each aggressively biting and trying to sting. Once the gloves hit the ground, I was no longer the focal point for the gathering mass of bees seeking the gloves. Since that time, I wear nothing that might still smell of a real animal, well other than me.

    I really enjoy reading your stories.


  • I am not a beekeeper. I am a gardener. My experience with what I know know are “wool carder bees” is a lesson I will never forget, also endearing to me.

    Here I am, the garden lady, wearing black gloves, carrying around a large black lawn bag. Bees kept bumping me in the head (I have dark hair as well). I noticed these “bees” coming out of the ground from what appeared to be a gopher hole. Okay, fine – I like bees.

    About 3 hours of nicely “bumping me” while I am trimming flowers, dead heading, pruning, etc. – I was stung through my black glove. It wasn’t until my arm had swollen up to the diameter of a football that I noticed there was a secondary stinger right next to the first sting. In my mind, I can see these little bees, knowing they were on a suicide mission, holding wings while they stung me. They were that close together.

    Now that I know more about their “missions,” I feel bad that I taunted them – and have so much respect for them saving their colony.
    (Had to share – yep, I am an “Ellie Mae Clampett at heart”)….

  • Last fall I had my fun experience with bees that can go anywhere, but they brought their mean non-bee friend. Wrong time of day, hot and late, and they were cranky, but I’d been gone a month and missed my girls and wanted to peek in the hive. Suddenly a bee was inside my veil, stinging my lip. I smooshed her through the wire mesh, and moved away from the hives. With a maelstrom of irritated bees swirling around my head, I thought I’d just ease away from their territory and hope they’d lose interest. The buzzing was furious, and then the buzz took on a different tone. I looked down to see a rattlesnake at my feet. Throbbing lip, angry bees, and now here’s this fresh hell. Nothing to kill it with, unwilling to leave it to trip over tomorrow, I ended up jumping up and down on the poor snake until he was good and dead.

    My husband was watching from the house. He didn’t know whether to call the guys with the wrap-around-arms jacket, or come help me dance and flap.

  • I love this blog! I just came across it while searching for bee sites and I’ve been reading since! I want to be a beekeeper – soon! 🙂

  • When I was a youngster (12 years old) an ant got into my right ear and was doing its marching on my eardrum. 68 years later I am working my hive and a couple of bees got into my veil and it wasn’t long and one of the girls must have wanted to whisper some sweet nothings in my right ear. By that time my wife had the water hose and was dousing me down and filling my ear with water and getting me soaked. During this time I am thinking about the ant and the thought goes across my mind about the sting and the swelling I would soon receive if stung. About that time the helmet and gloves came off and I was ready to fight when I got hit full force with that jet-stream of water. We laugh about it now but it wasn’t that funny at the moment.

    • Charles,

      Good story. Why do so many mishaps occur while we’re wearing bee suits or veils? They seem to attract trouble.

  • Bless your heart – thank you for the laugh!

    I have yet to be stung by my girls. Weird though—I don’t really have to worry about my girls yet—it’s the wild hive on the west side of our mountain that gives me day-to-day grief. The bees are bigger and nearly all black—and mean as hornets! I have been chased all over the place by them. Through the garden, across the field, and it ends with a slam of the shop door and me hopping around making sure I am not being blind sided!

    I wish I understood why they have it in for me—I am the one who puts out the peace offering sugar water! Nobody’s told them not to bite (sting) the hand that feeds them.

  • And I forgot to say –
    Your culprit is one gorgeous bee!
    I am so jealous! I love my girls but in a beauty contest – yours wins!

  • I was stung three times in the hand while taking honey without gloves (my fault of course). But how does the “Fat bee man” of YouTube fame and others, get away with never wearing any protection? I don’t get it. He has hundreds of hives and works around them like he’s on a picnic. Any thoughts? Jack

    • Jack,

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I don’t wear gloves I nearly always get stung. But the stings disappear quickly and by the time I’m home I can’t remember where they were. So I guess you get used to it and a little bit immune. Also, squishing bees sends up the alarm. When you’re bear-handed you can feel where they are and so are less likely to squeeze them.

  • Great story…I would have had to force myself to stay calm under those circumstances! While working my hives this week, I got stung on the end of my nose through the veil — was stretching my back and guess it was pressed up against it, and a young lady jumped at the opportunity to increase the size of my schnoz – OUCH! Then, when done, I went into the house, looked in the mirror and realized the stinger was sticking right out.
    As I removed it, much to my surprise, a hitchhiker flew off me. It took all I had after what her comrade at arms had done to me, to catch her gently and put her outside. Days like those, one can get a complex about being apis-unpopular!

  • OK, some good stories. Now, I got one for ya’ll.

    I had been working with bees for a few years. Went down to he chicken house to let the birds out for the enjoyment of a nice early spring day. Since it promised to be such a fine, relatively warm day, I decided to temporarily remove the hive reducers of a few hives I had by the spring pond nearby. I was wearing a pair of sweat pants with one little hole, about the size of a dime, about mid-thigh of one leg. I hadn’t noticed that a guard bee had made a “bee-line” for that one little darn hole, but I definitely noticed it when I felt the sting in my right (or was it the left) testicle. Ouch! But hey — stings happen.

    I got busy w/my day, and started taking manure out of the chicken coop. After about an hour, I started to get thirsty, so I headed up to the house for a drink of water. Our house is on a little rise, about 50 yards from the coop, not much, really, but by the time I got to the house, I was panting and my heart was racing. Then, when I tried to drink the water, I couldn’t swallow! Oh, no! I was having an anaphylactic reaction! A trip to the hospital ER, and to make a long story short, I started receiving immunity shots for the next 2 years. Carried, and still keep nearby — just in case, you never know — an epi-pen, even though I’m supposedly no longer reactive.

    • Michael,

      That’s scary. It always surprises me when people who were not allergic, become allergic. It seems to happen frequently.

      • Indeed, it was scary. And, at least for awhile, somewhat depressing. I didn’t want to give up keeping bees. Thankfully, my healthcare plan had a provision for desensitization treatment.

  • Great site, just happened on it while having some down time to look for information on winterizing my hives. I am new to beekeeping this year. I loved the story above, made me laugh and feel the frenzy of getting the bee outta there.

    I have one of my hives at my dad’s berry patch a few hours from where I live. I was showing a good friend of mine and her dad how I inspect a hive. I had on tan slacks, clogs, my bee jacket, veil, and gloves. I was working, showing them frame after frame of interesting hive findings, when I felt a trickle of sweat working up my thigh to my behind. Not sweat. Now I usually wear jeans tucked into muck boots, so I was questioning my clothing choice. I got nervous, said, I think I have a bee in my pants. Bam, stung right on the behind as I stood with friends watching on. Worse yet it was my first sting from my own hives, not the last, but the first. Oh well. It does hurt, however briefly, but it is the surprise that really gets me.

    Great blog, love the stories (and the information). I am glad I am not the only one that recognizes the beauty in a well re-told story, making even seemingly mundane things lively and revealing the “funny” in them. Life after all is full of really interesting daily happenings, we just have to recognize them! I wouldn’t change my adventures in bees, chickens, or raising children for anything. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jen,

      Cute story. I like your description of sweat trickling up your thigh. There is something about the feel of bee feet walking where they don’t belong, that just sends me!

    • Nothing worse than feeling a bee walking up your thigh! Do you walk slowly back to the house and risk irritating or squishing the bee? Or do you drop your pants in your backyard and do the “get off me” dance and risk freaking out the neighbors?

  • And yet no one has noted (all having FAR more class than I?) of the great pain & amounts of money that so MANY have paid for size implementing injections into these aformentioned male & female areas…

  • Ah yes, a pleasure to share tales of woe with colleagues for the knowing nods and – that was a good one. I find that when things go badly before a rainstorm or especially with a tornado watch the girls get pissy fast just like flies at the beach and will bunch up on my ankles and hang on and on and just keep burrowing into those socks until they hit flesh and stay at it until I get every last one and then their sisters just keep going at those spots. Of course they’re not bad at finding miniscule lacunae in one’s protective clothing or spots where clothing is binding and stretched tight over various anatomical bumps, extrusions and bulges, which leads me to the great indignity of a sting to the family jewels. Everybody who isn’t of both the beekeeping and masculine persuasion imagines this to be tremendously awful, but curiously enough it’s more the freakout anticipatory factor of something crawling up your pantleg and the ‘ how dare you!?’ effect that come into play. We soon find that those parts are pretty well vascularized and recover quickly – like tattoo artists knowing that it hurts most where you don’t necessarily expect it…..a bee caught in one’s moustache and going for skin – now that’s really awful and stays that way for quite a while even after the adrenalin rush has worn off…….

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