Springtime is upon us. That beautiful time of year when flowers are in bloom, leaves are sprouting on the trees, and nature is coming out of its nest and showing itself again. It’s the cycle of rebirth that brings you out of the doldrums of winter’s cabin fever. For my son, however, this particular time of year poses an annual threat that he abhors—bees. It’s not exactly apiphobia or melissophobia, but it is disruptive, nonetheless. When he gets out of the car next to our giant holly bush or takes the dog out by the boxwood shrubs, he’s always cautious when he sees the bees flying around, gathering their nectar. No matter how many times I tell him just to blow past them and walk inside, he’s always hesitant and will go out of his way to avoid getting anywhere near them.
If you knew my history, you might be surprised that I’m so nonchalant about bees. After all, some twenty years ago or more, while I was mowing the yard of my new house for the first time, I had an experience I’ll never forget involving nature’s pollinators. I was mowing adjacent to a wooded area when I unknowingly ran over a yellow jacket nest in the ground. The push mower was loud, so I didn’t hear the buzzing sound around me. Seconds later, however, I felt something, only to look down and see two dozen bees or more in a ball in the middle of my chest. They were so thick they were crawling over one another in a frenzy to see who could sting me the most. I panicked, of course, and let go of the safety lever on the mower handle, shutting it off automatically, and ran to the back of the house, where I had the hose hooked up to the outside water faucet.
As I ran, I could feel the bees stinging me over and over through my clothes, while others were coming now and flying around my head and stinging my back in the process. I’ve learned since that when yellow jackets sting you, they secrete a smell that other yellow jackets sense, and it sends them into attack mode. I was in a very threatening situation. So I grabbed the hose, turned on the water full blast and immediately began dowsing myself from head to toe with a hard stream of water. The bees were stinging so intensely that they were actually stuck in my clothing and couldn’t free themselves to fly away. My wife came out when she saw the commotion, and before realizing it was bees, she thought I’d suddenly gotten very hot and needed a quick cooling off. I yelled for her to stay back and get the broom. When she did, I told her to sweep the bees off of me that were dazed from all the water. I was afraid to touch them with my hands, since I’d been stung so many times already. She did so, and then looked at my beard and had a sick look on her face. When I yelled, “What?” she pointed at her jawline as if to tell me there was a bee stuck in my beard trying to get out, all the while it was stinging me. I screamed, “Get it!” So instead of sweeping my face, she promptly punched my face with the bristles of the broom. It didn’t work the first time, so I yelled for her to do it again. This time she punched my face so hard my head bounced backward. It worked, though, and finally, the bees were flying away from me.
Afterward, having been stung dozens of times, aside from the dull stinging sensation, I was surprised I hadn’t passed out and wasn’t in worse pain. After getting inside the house, my wife put some medicated ointment on my stings. Surprisingly, the medicine actually made the pain and itch unbearable. So, I went to the ER, and they gave me a shot of Benadryl, which helped soothe the pain and itch and relax me. In the end, I was okay.
You’d think after all that I’d be terrified of bees. And although I do have my fears (heights, for example), surprisingly, bees isn’t one. I can only attribute it to the fact that I’d been through this traumatic event and survived to tell about it. I realized I’d disturbed their nest. I knew why they were attacking so profusely and what it took to stop it. After making it through that many stings, I guess that’s why one little bee doesn’t get me riled up. This isn’t medical advice, by the way, because my uncle, a Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Golf Coach, got stung several times while outdoors and had to use an EpiPen from then on. If he ever gets stung again he may not survive. I was lucky.
The point is, though, that once we’ve been through a traumatic event and survived, it’s possible we garner the courage to face even bigger challenges later on. I don’t recommend this experience, but I can do landscaping work without panicking when an insect flies by. I still can’t convince my son, though.
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