All right, for the sake of all you purists let me say right off that, at least for this writing, anything that flies and stings particularly those who want to sting me is a bee. Wasp, hornet, yellow jacket, bumblebee purpose is the same and that’s all I’m talking about.
All right. All right. To be more specific, this one is little and lives in a hole in the ground. It may or may not be yellowish. But, whatever its specifications, it does not like me.
I’ve had trouble with these critters in the past. On at least one occasion the yard man stepped or mowed a hole and ended up covered in the nasty little buggers. On two occasions I’ve been attacked stung once and amazed guests the other time with the singularity of this little guy’s purpose and the vehemence with which he tried to carry it out.
Most, however, in all fairness are benign. They do their buzzy things, I do my gardening and we respect each other. That means we leave each other alone.
Twice now this summer I have tried to weed the junipers at the end of the lake, low-lying scraggly bushes which, to their credit, have not given up the ghost in spite of a great deal of neglect. Weeding junipers is not high on my list of priorities. But the summer is soon coming to a close (though it keeps wringing out yet another perfect cloudless day in the 70s or 80s) and some of these odd jobs just need to be tackled. Or, in the case of the neglected junipers, perhaps not.
Anyway, there I sat in the late Sunday afternoon sunshine, my football team having lost yet again, digging grasses and a look-alike weed from the final plant. As before, one little bee would leave its hole, check me out, go run whatever errands it had to do and then return. I was very aware of where its hole was (though down the bank and not visible from above) and wasn’t getting particularly close. Or so I thought.
Bee seemed happy and so was I.
Guess it must be like those invisible dog fences where, in this case, it recognized a boundary unbeknownst to me. I can only surmise I crossed it for, from being a nonchalant critter, the bee suddenly turned and attacked. Like others of its ilk, these guys go for the bottom. I’m sure head and arms would be good targets were not the latter flailing wildly to protect the former. That’s how I got stung below in my rib cage.
This time I skedaddled as quickly as I could get to my feet and, rather to my surprise, was not followed or chased away. In fact, a little later I could safely return for weed-bucket and tools.
The bee population is waning, I read even making the cover of TIME last month so I’ll let it be and hope it and its family head for warmer climes when the temperatures drop so I can finish my project.
Years ago I read about bees the queen, the drones, how it all works out in a socialistic society. It works for them.
But I do not recall ever hearing or reading of one bee whose singular purpose seems to be to stand guard.
Or is there just one? Perhaps a cadre have been trained for that purpose and they take turns: this is Susan; let’s go get ‘er. Are the most aggressive bees chosen? And what, pray tell, do they do the rest of the time for my threats and unwilling, unintentional they are are markedly few and far between.
Sounds like a cushy job to me.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org