Someday I’m going to quit beekeeping so I can have clothes without propolis. I’m serious. Luckily, clothes have never been very important to mejeans and a tee and I’m good to go. But once in awhile I’d like them to be clean enough so people in the shops wouldn’t squint at me and try to figure out the source of the god-awful glob on my shoulder. I see them wrinkle up and move further away, trying to pretend they’re not. I can see they imagine something way worse than propolis.
Every time I work the bees, I start out by believing I can stay clean. But it never works. Today, for example, was typical.
It was fifty-some degrees outside, a perfect day for checking the hives. All I had to do was make sure everyone was well fed. I wasn’t worried about my fairly new sweatshirt because I wore a grubby jacket that would protect my clothes.
I went through all the hives, delivering a sugar patty here and there. All was fine until the very last hive. I was closing it up when I felt something strange on my neck. I was wearing a veil, so I snugged up a little on the draw string. In retrospect, my neck was inside the veil so anything creeping across it was already there. But I cinched it up anyway.
I snatched up my bucket and began walking home. About ten feet from the hive, I got nailed in the armpit. Yow-eee! Searing, burning pain came from under my coat, under my sweatshirt, under my turtleneck. How anything got in there, I have no idea. I tried to ignore it. I see beekeepers all the time, and they all ignore it. I know they’re faking, but I try to do the same.
About fifty yards further down the path, the pain intensified, so I twisted the fabric to kill the evil-doer. I got to thinking, what if it wasn’t a bee? What if it was, say, a spider? That made the pain even worse. Finally, I couldn’t stand having it in my clothes. Dropping bucket, hive tool, some frames, and the few remaining patties, I decided to get rid of it.
It was all that frantic disrobing in the woods that got propolis on my sweatshirt and turtleneck. Both! I don’t know where it came from, maybe my hands, the hive tool, the frames. Who knows? But regardless of where it had been, it was now on yet another set of clothes. The indignity of the stingalthough red and swollen the size of a orangewas nothing compared to the smudges of stupidity all over my clothes.
Back at the house I got out my trusty bottle of Everclear and cleaned the propolis as best I could. Most of it came out, but “most” is the operative word. If worse comes to worst, I suppose I could just drink the Everclear and then maybe I wouldn’t notice the stains or the prissy little soccer moms that stare at me in the grocery store.
But would I really trade clean clothes for a life without bees? Well, maybe not quite yet.