I don’t even have to lie, because you all know me – I’m just about paralytically apiphobic. I’m the one that makes picnics, hikes, drinks on the patio, etc, intolerable for the rest of you because I’m flailing around and doing the Crazy-Eye whenever a bee comes by.
The funny thing, of course, is that despite my well-publicised fear of them, I really like them. I am deeply, genuinely, sincerely pro-bee. Not only do I adore and admire the little suckers, I respect them too – and they fascinate me. For further explanation I posit the following:
1. Donald Duck
Donald Duck was tormented by many villains in his day – squirrels, ants, sharks, Hitler, etc. But the second-funniest Donald Duck cartoon of all time, ‘Bee at the Beach,’ starred a singlet-wearing bee with a distinct ‘Stickin’ up for the little guy’ attitude. Donald threw sand in the bee’s face, dumped water on his chair, blocked the sun, and so on, and got his comeuppance with stingy stingy graphic goodness at the end. Props to the bee, man. I loved him so much for standing up all alone to Donald Duck. That doesn’t always happen. (I cite the funniest Donald Duck cartoon of all time: ‘Tea for Two Hundred,’ where an entire colony of ants bands together at one point and pitches Donald off a cliff while he’s asleep. Kids these days don’t know what they’re missing.)
My friend Jenny and I got stung, both in the face, while picking raspberries in my backyard when I was six; my friend Colin and I got stung (on the arms) picking saskatoons in northeast Edmonton somewhere in 2004, and that served us right too. Right, dead right, to give up your life protecting the hive in the berry bushes. Dead right, dammit. That’s why you have to respect bees – not because they sting you, but because they die from stinging you.
3. Shake Your Groove Thang
Bees communicate by dancing, although ‘dancing’ is of course the wrong word and I hate it when scientists persist in using a specifically human term to describe an animal behaviour that we, as humans, have no vocabulary to describe. Grrr. But anyway, turns out that little boogie is all about the quantum mechanics. Yes, they shake their booties to the geometry of a six dimensional flag manifold. You can read more here, and I promise you it’s fascinating stuff even if you’re not into bees or math.
4. Killer Bees
Technically you’re supposed to call them ‘Africanized,’ but doesn’t that sound sort of racist? Anyway, they scare the pants off me. Did any of you guys catch that documentary on Discovery where they hang a black rubber ball in front of one of the killer bees’ colonies and the ball gets stung about two hundred times in one minute? Jesus. I can see how that could be cool in the savannahs. Not so much in, say, Savannah, Georgia.
Once, when a boy I had a crush on invited me to dinner, I prettied up and sprayed myself (actually doused myself) with satsuma body spray from the Body Shop. When we got there, the guy says, “It’s a warm night, why don’t we eat out on the patio?” I froze, but it was too late, and he was already leading me out there. I ended up sitting right underneath a flower basket. In May. Needless to say, within two minutes I had a dozen bees thoroughly checking me out, including one monster – possibly even a queen bumblebee – crawling on my arm. I was on the verge of tears/hysteria/projectile vomiting, but my crush prevailed and I just sat there while the fuzzy beast did her thing. Her claws pricked and poked, and each time I flinched I thought I would surely be stung, but we did eventually leave. My date noted that I hadn’t eaten much or said anything. Well, yeah.
A few years later I was at Il Portico with a gentleman and when he got up briefly to use the restroom, a bee of similar proportions fell into my martini. I stifled a shriek, tried to use a spoon to get it out, failed, panicked, and eventually – spurred in the end by pity rather than fear – tipped the glass over onto the tiles below the table. The bee did its best, but it had obviously gotten too much liquid in its system and it died. My date returned and stared at the empty glass with mild reproach, but what do you say at that point? Seriously.
6. Varroa Mites
These make me sad. They are a very nasty ectoparasite (only one of many that parasitize bees, but still) to which North American domesticated honeybees have little resistance, and they started popping up in about the 1980s. It’s especially sad that the infestation appears to be worsening because the mites are developing resistance to several commercial insecticides. And of course, you don’t want too much of that stuff around in the first place, in case it gets into the honey. I don’t know why more people aren’t upset about this. Even the images are upsetting.
7. Larry Gonick
A total aside, basically. While Mr. Gonick is explaining the basis of some social animals in ‘The Cartoon History of the Universe’ Vol I, there’s a little sketch of some brainwashed bees slowly flying out of a hive and repeating something robotic like “It is good that we do all the work and the queen gets all the sex,” “Yes, that is good.” Heh. All the work.