miscellaneous musings

Bee-yond bee-lief: drama in the media

This morning I was working out and watching the news when the reporter said something like, “Up next, Woodinville firefighters respond to a very unusual call.” Now why is it that any beekeeper would know—beyond a shadow of doubt—that the news piece was going to be about bees? I had no doubts. Call it extrasensory bee-ception. I waited impatiently through a string of commercials.

Sure enough, the story went like this. A 70-year-old beekeeper was tending his hive when he fell and dislocated his hip. He toppled his beehive as he fell and then landed in a pond. The bees poured out of the hive and formed a cloud around the pond, the beekeeper, and the responding firefighters. The beekeeper was wearing a beesuit and got stung only a few times. One firefighter was stung as well.

If you are having trouble picturing this, you are not alone. The news photographs showed scattered supers next to a landscaped fish pond with the man lying next to the water. Still, it’s hard to see how he got from the hive into the water unless he was running from the bees—something that would be hard to do with a dislocated hip. It there something they’re not telling us?

Firefighters said the man had been submerged for about thirty minutes before he was rescued, but that he was extremely calm and coached the firefighters on how to work around the swarm of bees. The reporter was using her “dramatic” voice and the firefighters were wearing gas masks, which made the whole thing sound really scary. No wonder so many people are afraid of honey bees.


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  • Only a few stings from a toppled hive, that is great! Too bad most people who read that story won’t see it the same way 🙁 Journalists always try to make a story dramatic. I always wonder how a tiny BENEFICIAL insect like the honeybee became fodder for the journalists of the world??

  • Rusty,
    I was one of the firefighters on this call. The gentleman dislocated his hip and fell into the pond. He was completely submerged initially, but was able to drag himself onto the rockery. He was there for 30 min prior to his wife finding him. We had our masks on because that was the only facial protection we had available. He was working behind the hive when he fell – that’s how he ended up in the pond.

    If you have any more questions, let me know.

    • Believe me, Dale, we all appreciate what you firefighters do for us and our communities. Some of us beekeepers however have issues with the press who make bees sound like marauding hordes instead of the little workers who assure we have a variety of foods on our plates and an assortment of trees and flowering plants in our environment.

      In colonial America nearly anyone with a piece of land kept a hive or two to pollinate the crops. Now a beehive in a neighborhood is treated like a registered sex offender. Many of us feel that a sensationalized story like this reverses any progress we make in increasing public awareness and acceptance of bees–native species as well as honey bees.

      I don’t think the facts were exaggerated, but the tone and attitude of the reporter was one of shock and horror–as if Alfred Hitchcock’s birds had landed in Woodinville.

      Nevertheless, I thank you and your colleagues for helping this gentleman out of his predicament. I also thank you for writing.


  • Rusty,
    I understand completely. We were surprised by the attention this call received. Potential hypothermia in wet clothes and temps in the low 40’s was more of a concern than the bees. If the bees were not there, it would have been a routine call with no news footage.

    The three of us did not volunteer to do the story – we were ordered to participate.

    On a side note – my next door neighbors have a hive. It’s never been an issue.

  • Let’s hope the old-timer recovers fully from his harrowing experience. It certainly sounds like it was dramatic for him. Assuming all ends well, it may make for a funny story eventually, given some time and perspective. He’ll probably want to give himself a little more space next time!