October 2021

Bee Prepared

On keeping your distance while admiring bees’ handiwork

I’ve been reading several books recently that feature bees as central, or minor, characters.

There’s “Queen Bee” by the late Dorothea Benton Frank, one of my favorite authors, whose books I will miss greatly. I’ve taken to reading her published ones again. I just finished “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice;” fiction, of course, about Sherlock Holmes and a young woman he met while studying bees. They became lifetime cohorts. While Sherlock keeps hives in the book, there was not nearly enough about bees in it to support the title. There’s another book I may try to find at the library: “The Secret Life of Bees.” I’m sure there are many more I have not discovered yet.

It’s not that I’m particularly fond of bees, the honey variety or otherwise. In fact, I give bees a wide berth. That comes from my mother, who was very much afraid of bees. It did not turn out well the night she put on a dress she’d recently taken off the clothesline, only to find an angry bee lurking inside. My sister and I were startled to suddenly hear cries from the bedroom, “Get it off me, David! Get it off me!” It became one of our little family fun stories.

I know that honeybees are in danger of disappearing, and that, with them, our sources of food. I hope something can be done. I will do my miniscule part by keeping away from them altogether.

I can’t forget my most memorable encounter with bees. I looked out my Key West kitchen window one morning, and saw a fellow in a full beekeeping outfit, carrying a towering stack of hives down the driveway.

“Hey!” I shouted. “What do you think you’re doing?”

He said his name was Leonard, and he and his bees were moving into the apartment in the back of the house.

I watched as Leonard carefully carried the hives down into the backyard, and began setting them up, just beside the clothesline I used at least twice a week

“You can’t put those bees there!” I cried.

By now, my boyfriend had heard the commotion. He — all 6-foot-5 inches of him, with flaming red hair — flip-flopped down the driveway to have a word or two with Leonard, a spindly, spare specimen.

I don’t know who called them, but it was not long before the Key West police arrived. The two officers got out of the car and surveyed the shouting match down by the clothesline. Then, they waded into the fray.

I also don’t know what happened, or how, but the bees became quite disturbed. They started to swarm about, buzzing loudly. The air seemed filled with angry bees. The policemen grabbed their nightsticks. They began swinging and swatting the clubs at the swarm. As you might imagine, this did no good whatsoever. It simply further enraged the bees. Screams of pain and anger filled the air. The bees were immediately attracted to my friend’s red hair. I remained safely behind the kitchen screen, watching the drama.

No one was arrested. And, Leonard did not move out immediately with his hives. But I did. I moved on my bicycle, carrying my possessions in my bike basket to a new cottage, pedaling back and forth until the move was done. I pumped the pedals furiously because there was definitely a buzz in the air. I don’t know if those bees ever settled down. Not to mention the policemen.

Order Margo’s book, “A Party of One.” Call 540-468-2147, Mon.-Thurs., 9-5, or email [email protected]