Busy as a bee, but hole in defences bodes ill

Well, they finally got me. After a year and a-half of poking around in bee hives, moving them, stealing honey from them, taking them apart box by box to check every frame for disease and generally interfering with the bees, I have finally had a bee sting.

And what a great anticlimax it was.

You see, I have been petrified. I am not at all brave; I hate the thought of pain, not to mention potential allergic reaction. I even worried that if I got stung, the agony might make me give up keeping bees.

I have been extra careful since a classmate of mine from bee school got too blase. She was in the habit of feeding her bees in the mornings, still in her dressing gown, until the day one hive got grumpy. After 14 stings to her face and neck that morning, she has bought a hat and veil to wear, although she still feeds the bees in her dressing gown.

I always wear my bee suit - white overalls with built-in hood - as well as gumboots and heavy gloves. However, I haven't been even lighting my smoker, since my mild-mannered girls haven't needed calming.

But my bee overalls have a Velcro pocket each side, and the Velcro sometimes pops open when I bend a certain way. And that was all one defensive bee needed to deliver its deadly message (deadly to it, not me).

I was stripping a hive right back to the base to clean it up, check it for disease and give it a mesh base to help in the fight against the inevitable varroa mite infestation. But as I was bent double, lifting a box full of honey and bees, my Velcro ripped open. Both hands full, I couldn't stick it together, and next I felt a jab in my hip.

That can't be a sting, I thought. It felt more like a wee burn from hot wire. But it was, and I was left with a red mark that lasted the rest of the day. No allergic reaction. No giant welt. I didn't even feel compelled to swear.

The pain was mildly annoying, but nothing like as bad as I expected. I suffer more in the shearing shed picking up prickly fleeces, or trying to round up sheep in the gorse paddock, getting prickles.

But I am still a wimp, and I'll still be careful. And it will be many a long year before you'll find me feeding hives in my dressing gown.



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