“I wonder if, when surrounded by a thousand bees, you have ever become acutely aware of them. This year seems to be a bad year for me that way. At first, just a couple of swarms proved that they were not going to go gently into that dark box. Then, decorators next door attracted the attention of the backyard bees, who turned so aggressive that we had to redeploy them in a friend’s garden some miles away where they spent weeks chasing these good folk around.
A recent visit found the hive absolutely humming and I found it near impossible to concentrate on inspecting them because of the sheer numbers trying to get through my suit anywhere they could. In the end, I got just one sting, where my forehead contacted the headband. I fear I am developing a phobia as I feel a reluctance to visit the hives now. Could this be the end of beekeeping for me?”
Whenever I have to do something unpleasant, I obsess over it. If I have to visit the doctor or dentist, or if I have to deal with an obnoxious person, I can spend hours worrying, fretting, and painting horrific scenarios in my head.
Years ago, realizing how counterproductive this was, I developed a strategy. Whenever I start to fret, I say, “Don’t think, just do.” I repeat it like a mantra, sometimes out loud, sometimes in silence. I say it until I can steer my mind away and concentrate on something else.
It sounds lame, I know, but it works for me. Oddly enough, there are times when I apply this to beekeeping.
Just last week I had one of those beekeeping days. It was hot, overly humid, and dearth-y. I planned to assess my hives for brood and honey stores. Knowing the bees would be cranky, I suited up with gloves.
“Cranky” doesn’t begin to describe their mood. Being “assessed” is not what they had in mind. I can understand. Having someone poke into your private affairs like that must feel a little like an IRS audit.
In the sweaty confines of my suit, I pried stuck frames and maneuvered impossibly heavy boxes. I could barely see through the fog of bees, and a few got caught in the folds of my veil. The miasma of alarm pheromone was nauseating. Bees clung to my gloves, which were now sticky with honey, and I repeatedly shook them free to avoid bee death. For my efforts, I got stung in the stomach, right through all those layers.
Then I began to concentrate on the sound. The ones entrapped in the veil sounded like a jet plane in my ear—loud and steady and lethal. I spiked a fever of panic. I wanted to escape. I wanted to run away and never touch a hive tool again. “Don’t think, just do,” I cautioned myself. “Don’t think, just do.”
Forcing my mind from the sound, I counted brood frames, estimated honey stores, assessed my heart out. The panic drained away, and instead of doing half the hives as I had planned, I got through every last one.
So the answer to your question is yes. Sometimes I become overly aware of the bees. Not often, but when I least expect it. And, no, it’s not the end of beekeeping for you. The trepidation will evaporate. One day you will work your bees and their sweet docility and good nature will overwhelm you, and you will wonder how you could ever feel threatened by such peaceful creatures. Hang in there; this too shall pass.