I first became aware of bees in my backyard as a little girl. I remember swimming with my best friend, Tina from next door, in one of those rigid blue plastic swimming pools. My dad was nearby, likely listening to the Pirates game on the transistor radio. And, because childhood afternoons in the ‘70s weren’t exciting enough, Tina and I eventually turned to performing gymnastics in our bathing suits for no apparent reason.
When it was my time to cartwheel, I did it with more gusto than grace, and felt an immediate, searing pain in my chest. I stood up and realized I had been stung by a bee right on the breastbone. Dad was there, ready to soothe my fear and pointed to the clover below.
“You gotta be careful of the bees in the clover. But remember, if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you,” he said, and almost like he was Snow White, a bee landed on his hand. “See? He’s just minding his business.”
A few years later, I was in the supermarket with my mom as she shopped. I felt a drip land on my hair, which I thought was water dropping from the ceiling. But when I reached back, I learned it was a bee, who let me know he did not like me pestering him. Mom had shopping to do, so I stuck my hand in the frozen food section to keep it from swelling. By the time she was done, my hand resembled Mickey Mouse’s.
That’s where my fear of bees started, especially since Tina’s mom and later, my dad, both developed severe allergic reactions to bee stings. To this day, I do everything I can to avoid bothering them, and their especially dastardly cousins, wasps, who’ll sting you multiple times each, for (again) no apparent reason.
I found out years later in a colorful, R-rated retelling, that the bee on my dad’s hand stung the dickens out of him while he was telling me they wouldn’t bother us.
All humor and 1970s imagery aside, we are at a critical point where we simply must take care of the bees so they can continue taking care of us. Today, bees are at risk from climate change, from humans who use unnecessary pesticides and from such deadly diseases as American foulbrood, which wipes out entire bee colonies. More than a third of the food we eat—about 90 different crops—depends on bee pollination to exist. Losing bees? That’s what really stings.
I invite you to read several great Mt. Lebanon bee tales and learn about beekeeping in writer Anne Caffee’s story.
firstname.lastname@example.org / 412-343-3552