For the past several years the northern field was teeming with buzzing honey bees as I restarted an old childhood hobby of mine. The winter was once again bitterly cold and although early this spring I had one surviving hive that I fed to give it a change at restarting, we were subsequently hit with more frigid weather and unfortunately all of my hives have succumbed to the seemingly never ending Wisconsin winter. While it would have been fairly easy to restart the hives with new packaged bees which are interestingly sent through the mail, I took some time to think about my current situation and decided that perhaps a hiatus was in order.
You see, last Labor Day weekend I was mowing around my hives during a light rain without my gear on. The stupidity of mowing in the rain and also mowing around hives without gear is embarrassingly evident, but at the time I was in a hurry to get the job done so I could enjoy the rest of my time with my kids so I rushed to get it done. Normally, I mow around the hives (in nicer weather) without the protective gear and I have never ever been harassed by the bees. This is because the bees are too busy out of the hive foraging and their goal is more centered on collecting nutrients than it is protecting the brood and honey stores. When it is raining, however, all the bees are in the hive, not foraging and only concerned with protecting the brood and honey stores. Anyone walking around a hive in light rain is going to be asking for trouble and a guy driving a large zero radius John Deere rider lawn mower that makes a lot of noise and shakes the ground around the hives is essentially doomed from the start.
To make a long story shorter than it actually was….I got nailed about 20 times in the face and head while trying desperately to get away from the extremely aggressive “ladies”; my former friends. My entire body swelled up, I couldn’t wear shoes and I had hives (not the bee variety) on every inch of my body… (I documented this with photos, of course, but am too embarrassed to share those…) I laid down for about 5 hours, continued to check my own pulse and breathing (although I did have a little laryngeal edema.. a major red flag for anyone in the medical field) and chose unwisely to NOT go to the hospital for proper care. I gave my car keys to my teenage son and asked him to check on me every 15 minutes to ensure I was still conscious and if not to drive me into the Chilton hospital. Needless to say, I survived and made an appointment with our allergist to discuss my situation and also my concern that I was now seriously allergic to bees. She confirmed, after extensive skin testing, that I was in fact allergic and that I stood a 35-65% chance of full blown anaphylaxis the next time I got stung. She could reduce this to below baseline, however, with desensitization shots and a life-time supply of epi-pens close in hand. She recommended, surpisingly, that I could and should continue to keep bees in the future.
To date, I have yet to get the shots, but plan on making my appointment soon and in the meantime I just don’t want to risk taking any chance of getting stuck in the field by myself stung and not able to get the assistance I need.
The bees will return in years to come, either at Steinthal or in a new home down the road. I still have a fond appreciation of what they provide to our environment and look forward to enjoying their activity and the enjoyment they provide to me in the country.