Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bees (CLUNK!) bees (CLUNK!) bees (CLUNK!) bees (CLUNK!) bees!

I type this (CLUNK!) with a heavy (CLUNK!) every few words as my (CLUNK!) pinkie hits the key-(CLUNK!)-board, having swollen (CLUNK!) up today after being the chosen spot (CLUNK!) for receipt of a bee-(CLUNK!)-sting.

From this you may fairly adduce that we did some work on the hive today. Things were never meant to happen this way; we had done a fairly standard job on the hive on Friday - we whisked off the top box, which is usually where the bees tend to put their honey, whacked an escape board on top of that, closed the hive up again, and waited for evening to collect the frames. Coming back in the evening, we found they were full of (bugger!) larvae, not (blast!) honey. We put some back into the hive though, unfortunately, in the process of extraction some of the combs had got broken anyway. We had been unprepared for this operation, too, so in doing so we had initially left a lot of extra space in the hive, no combs, etc; so we knew we'd be coming back soon to do more work.

So this Sunday morning we found ourselves preparing for another biggish job on the hive - rather reluctantly, because the bees, as you can imagine, rather begrudge our occasional incursions onto their sanctum, which I can quite understand why. We collected the hive tool (it's like a.... tool.... for the hive) and the bee brush (it's just a big arse brush) and cleaned and prepared several frames and collected our smoker and had half struggled our way into our suits, we heard a familiar whine from out the back door - our next door neighbour had decided Sunday afternoon was an excellent time to start whippersnippering the edges of their garden (they're weird that way).

It need hardly be said that bees and lawnmowing don't mix. Bees and neighbours don't mix very well either (we, er, may not have forgotten to mention our beekeeping habits to them somehow). And as for bees and lawnmowing neighbours*.... well, we decided to sit it out. We struggled out of our suits and flopped about on the couch as the whippersnipping whipped and snipped, on and off, for an hour or so. Eventually it stopped. Of course by this time we were doing another vital activity, ie, checking the internet, so we weren't able to struggle back into our bee suits for another few minutes.... by which time another familiar growl started up from the same place. The neighbour, apparently so satisfied with their whipping and snipping, had decided to upgrade to a proper lawnmower (they are very strange).

Eventually we got to it. The usual drill: bees everywhere. Bees climbing out of the sides of the hives to get at the interlopers. Bees zooming around our heads looking for something to sting. Bees generally pissed off. They were even more eager to do it this time, of course, having been set off on the previous two occasions that we were likely to try something like this. And, amongst all this, a lot of heavy moving and grunting and shifting as we rearranged the hive to our satisfaction, if not theirs.

It was only in removing my suit again that I got stung, on the end of my pinkie. I never even saw the bee that did it (which would, at any rate, have dropped dead soon after).

So, anyway, once again, great story old man, and can't I even muster up enough courage to admit to our neighbours that we have bees? But no, actually, apparently I can't. Though I can tell you. And the other hundred odd readers that drop by this website from time to time. So, as they say in the classics, it's just between me and you, alright?

*Not to mention lawnmowing bees and neighbours, which induce in me a state of utmost fear and paranoia.


Steve said...

Tim, are people supposed to tell neighbours they are keeping bees, by regulation or something, or is it just a matter of courtesy?

Also, I don't quite get the bit about where larvae go and where honey goes. Do they get mixed up on the same frame sometimes?

And as for stings - I got several times as a child while conducting investigations on bees on clover (or simply walking barefoot on clover.) I never used to have a big reaction ,but the last time I was stung (I forget how, as an adult, on my arm) my forearm did swell up and become hot and red. I think the doctor said you can develop sensitivity to the stings as you age, when seems annoying. Do you know anything about that?

TimT said...

I think it's a matter of courtesy. We'd just be somewhat embarrassed about admitting it to our neighbours.... :/ I keep on meaning to, but....

The most common bee hive you'll see are the Langstroeth hives, those boxes that stack up on one another. (One for the Society of People for Putting Things on Top of Other Things, perhaps?) In these, bees tend to lay their larvae in the lower boxes, and store their honey in the higher boxes. Not always, as we found out to our regret. As it turned out, most of the frames had a mixture of larvae, uncapped nectar cells, and capped honey cells, so maybe the Queen decided to go up there for a laying party one day or something.

In Kenyan top bar hives, you just get a single box on legs (Google to find out what it looks like) and you can just move the frames around until you find the honey stores.

You can get tested and even treated for a developing allergic reaction to bee-stings, but I wouldn't assume just yet that you're developing one. First sting you get from a bee as a child, your body doesn't do anything much because it simply hasn't ever had to respond to anything like this before. Stings can vary in intensity too, depending on where they go on your body and how long they stay in your body - for me the worst stings have been on my forehead and on my fingers. The blood's rushed to that spot and, having nowhere to go, my head/fingers swelled up something horrid. By contrast I got a sting on my cheek two days ago and the morning after I was left with little more than a pimple!

Our bee group had a talk on stings the other month and the general advice was this: swelling in the area of the sting (if it's on elbow, arm counts as 'the area of the sting'; if it's on the foot, the leg countss 'the area', etc), then that's not necessarily sign of a developing allergy. The real signs are hives - a rash on an unrelated part of your body - or difficulty breathing.

Allergy to stings is a funny thing though, apparently if it's long enough between stings your body forgets how it dealt with the previous sting!

TimT said...

I can't remember the figures the bee sting guy gave, but apparently around 5% of the population can develop an allergy. One indicator of allergy could well be if you're allergic to anything else (which to the best of my knowledge you aren't!)

Steve said...

All very edumacational. Thanks..

Email: timhtrain - at -

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