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A Bee in My Bonnet: Wrangling up a nest of hot hornets 

Jim Anderson, fearless beekeeper. Father's Day has come and gone, but the joy that comes from the celebration goes on and on - like the

click to enlarge Jim Anderson, fearless beekeeper.
  • Jim Anderson, fearless beekeeper.
Jim Anderson, fearless beekeeper. Father's Day has come and gone, but the joy that comes from the celebration goes on and on - like the book my wife, Sue, gave me, Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop.

This marvelous and well-written treatise is not only a biography of how honey sweetened the lives of generations of people in the Old World for thousands of years, as well as a discussion of bee-keeping today; it's also a darn good "bee-manual."

Whether you're a beekeeper, someone who loves honey, or appreciate a good book, you'll enjoy having Robbing the Bees in your library and sharing it with friends and family. Which opens the door to my latest adventure with bees...

"Jim," the voice on the other end of my telephone said in an excited voice, "this is Jan Baker in Bend. I have a big swarm of bees in my apple tree, do you want them?"

Did I want them? Does a skunk like to suck eggs? You bet I wanted them! Free bees are always welcome, especially in this day of colony collapse syndrome and other strange and terrible things happening to bees.

In all the 40-plus years I have been a beekeeper in this area I have picked up probably 20 or 30 swarms of wild bees. Not once did they ever give me any problems, so I left my bee veil and smoker at home. No problem...

When I arrived at the address everything looked familiar. Oh yes, I remembered, there's an old juniper tree in the yard next door with a hive of bees that I know has been there for over 30 years. And then I recalled picking up at least three swarms of docile bees in that vicinity. Again, no problem...

click to enlarge He ain't afraid of no bees.
  • He ain't afraid of no bees.
He ain't afraid of no bees.Jan took me around to the backyard, and sure enough, there was a nice healthy-looking swarm of bees in her apple tree, clear up in the top, dag-nab-it.

There was plenty of help standing around watching, so we got a ladder up into the tree and a big cardboard box to place the bees in for the trip to their new home in my nice clean hive.

A very willing young man by the name of David offered to stand on the bottom rung of the ladder to hold it firm as I climbed to the top with the box, which I really appreciated. All was going along just fine. Then I reached out and began to brush the bees into the box...

WHAM! The world came to an end! Workers came out of the swarm like a bunch of F-16 Viper jets and hit me everywhere. Bees went buzzing up my nose, into my mouth, hair, and down my shirt. It was bedlam. I was being stung like you cannot believe. I knocked bees out of my nose and mouth, and finally tied my red handkerchief bandana over my face. Thankfully, my glasses seemed to protect my eyes as I began brushing bees into the box and out of my hair, but all to no avail; they overwhelmed me.

I had to use a handsaw to cut off the branch, put the branch and swarm into the box and then transfer eveyone to the hive. In all that commotion my stalwart ladder-holding friend David never shirked his duty, and he was being stung too.

Thankfully, I do not have serious or life-threatening allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings. Even so, within minutes my bleeding nose and upper lip swelled up, and the inside of my mouth felt as though I'd been chewing on hot sandpaper.

My first thought about the frenzied bees was that they were "Africanized bees." That seemed to be the only plausible reason for that bunch of bees to be so hot to handle. I bundled up a few and sent them over to OSU for a look at their genetic lineage, but the answer came back negative, they are the plain old, sure-as-you're-born European variety.

Just to be sure, I went to Jan's place the other day to test them. I thumped the top of the hive and even lifted the cover, but the bees just kept on humming, and didn't rise up in that alarming buzzing sound they make when agitated.

To round out this little tale, I have to mention the e-mail I received yesterday regarding placing a copper penny on a bee sting to take the swelling out. I'm sure many of you have either already received it, or may be getting it in the near future. It sounds like it works, but there's nothing like proof of the pudding. So the next time I am stung, which will probably be soon, I'm going to try the penny trick. If it works, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, please keep my telephone number handy (388-1659) in the event you have a swarm of bees drop by. I'll be happy to come by and pick them up, and I'll bring some copper pennies with me.


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