Most hives are docile enough that when the beekeeper walks away, the bees simply hurl a few insults about the size of your butt or your lack of intelligence, then turn back. But with an aggressive hive, as we had this year, the bees follow you. Melissa developed the technique of running around the west side of the house, pushing through a tight stand of spruce trees to lose the bees, then dashing to the east back door. She’d still have a few following her, banging against her veil. The bees would then harass us for days as we’d go from house to car, or tried to mow the lawn.
The night before she had to harvest the honey, Melissa needed to do something in the hives. (I’m not the beekeeper, hence the vague ‘something.’) It was 85 and humid, and she was about to experience a wardrobe malfunction of major proportions.
The first hive got mildly angry, so she did her circuit around the house to the back door. She had one in her veil, so we killed that one. Then she returned and began working on the aggressive hive. Twenty minutes later I hear her yell. She did her circuit but they weren’t letting her go. Four or five had gotten under the veil. She was wringing wet, and exhausted, but had to return to the hive and close it up.
Five minutes later I heard the most anguished cry Melissa has ever emitted. I looked out the front door to see her staggering across the lawn, beating at her head. She was near collapse, and I doubted she’d make it all the way to the back door. What was I going to do?–Say, “You’re covered in bees! Get out of here!” So I called her to the front door, then closed up the entry way so the bees couldn’t get beyond the front room. Melissa managed to yank off her veil, stagger inside, and fall to the floor. At this point my memory goes fuzzy. I just remember standing there staring at the bees swarming around her, the bees crawling through her hair. Apparently I shouted, “You’re covered in bees! Get out of here!”
Poor Melissa moaned. “I can’t move.” She’d run out of adrenaline. So I grabbed the nearest weapon, a cloth bag slung over the back of the chair. I had no idea what was in the bag—it’d showed up when I was gone for a few days. I began thwacking Melissa’s head, shoulders, back, etc. With each thwack the bag grew more moist. To make a long story short, I killed 80 bees (including the one that got inside my shirt and stung me on the stomach) with a bag of tomatoes. Melissa and I survived. The bees and the tomatoes did not.
There are many reasons why this hive is aggressive, but we can’t have those kinds of bees out here. We even had to cancel some visitors because the bees were pissed off for days.
My wife is one brave cookie. Despite this traumatic experience, she went out the next day with the help of a friend who also keeps bees, and harvested the honey-filled frames. (Extraction story to come later.) I told her no one would expect her to continue with bees, but she wants to. She immediately ordered a professional-quality bee suit with a veil that zips on, velcro around the ankles, etc. The next time she works with the hives, the only damage they’ll be able to inflict is with their inappropriate taunting.