the care and keeping of bees

I love bees. I would seriously consider keeping bees if it weren’t a case that my Patient Husband would move out. I settle for reading about them or admiring them when a wasp lands on the opposite side of the screen. I love their delicate antennae, their compound eyes, the fine hairs on their legs. They’re little marvels.

The nests they make are so ingenious: the hexagonal honey combs, the grids where they lay their eggs and grow their larvae. The way they can communicate. I’m just in awe. I took a beekeeping class in college.

On Memorial Day, I was gathering bricks from a pile left behind by the previous owners. We have a rabbit eating my pansies, and I wanted to build a little wall around the flowers to keep him out. It was a lovely day, bright and warm.

Kiddo#4 followed me around outside. We could hear the bees, of course, but all of Angelborough is in bloom right now (just standing in the street, you can smell the flowers everywhere) and I’m used to hearing bees and wasps hovering at all times and places.

So when I heard them while gathering bricks, I looked up, but there were no bees above me and no flowers nearby. I got the bricks and went back to the pansies. Back across the driveway to get more bricks. Back to the pansies. Back again to get more bricks.

And that third time, the buzz grew in volume, and Kiddo#4 screamed. I turned to find him covered in bees.

They were all over him. With more bees coming out from under his feet. An underground hive. I scooped him up and rushed him into the middle of the driveway. I had nothing to brush the bees off him, so I used my hands, scooping the things off his legs, off his shirt, off his shorts.

My Patient Husband came out and got the shorts off the baby, and then he carried him inside. I figured out an adequate dose of Benadryl and made the kid take it, and then we had to solve the biggest problem from the baby’s perspective: it wasn’t the pain; it was that he’d dropped his toy outside. And he wasn’t wearing shorts.

Poor kid. He likes things to be just-so. We retrieved the toy. We got him a new pair of shorts. We calmed him down.

There are four bricks out on my driveway, right in the middle. I can’t recall how they got there, only that they must have been in my hands when I turned around, and I must have dropped them when I put down the baby. But I don’t remember. I don’t remember at all.

Out of all that, he had only two bee-stings. I’m not sure whether yellow jackets normally just settle on people and fail to sting them, or whether his guardian angel stupefied the things before he could get stung a hundred times. I ended up not stung at all. The baby’s sting marks looked like bruises at first, and then within an hour or so they were just red spots. He’s fine now. Later on, he played outside just fine and even laughed when a fly landed on him.

And that night, I went out with a can of wasp and hornet-killer, and I killed them. I killed them all.

I’m sorry. I love bees. But they have to leave my baby the hell alone.


  1. Petra

    Oh my goodness! My heart is in my throat for you! I’m so glad he’s okay.

    Though I have to say . . . this story definitely suffers from lack of photographic evidence! 😉

  2. Diinzumo

    Sounds like honeybees rather than yellow jackets. I’ve only seen yellow jackets fly solo, the nests are smaller, and they’re far more eager to sting than honeybees.

    I’m sorry your encounter ended so badly on both sides. I would have done the same.

    1. philangelus

      It sucks because they were doubtless protecting their offspring too. They just didn’t realize that my offspring wouldn’t have harmed them. Or that I have access to Angelborough Hardware Supply where they sell neurotoxins in a can.

      1. Diinzumo

        Course, if they really were yellowjackets, your son was very lucky. And yeah, kill ’em all.

  3. Lucy

    Holy cow! It’s amazing that the Little Guy is just fine.

  4. Mary Nicewarner

    Scary! I’m glad your son was okay!

    Bees are necessary but I like rabbits better 😉

  5. Jason Block

    Sorry, while I respect bees and the pollination thing, I cant stand the critters. They give me the heebie-jeebies.

  6. capt_cardor

    Interesting,but scary. Honeybees do not usually make ground nests…On the other hand, Yellow Jackets, which are really wasps, are usually far more aggressive. Do you have a picture of any of the “remains”? A friend of mine stepped onto a yellow jacket nest and was quickly stung 115 times. Ouch!!!!

    1. philangelus

      When I get up the courage, I’m going to lift up the wooden pallet they nested under and get that nest out of there.

      I did find one bee I’d stepped on and it was a shade smaller than a yellowjacket, no green on it like a ground-wasp, and not fuzzy like a honeybee.