Today I went over to help my friend Pierre remove his mite treatment strips from his beehives. Honeybees can be cranky at this time of year; they know winter's coming, and they don't want anyone invading their hives and stealing their honey. Still, they are pretty tolerant. But Pierre warned me that two of his hives were nasty. Sure enough, they were! I got stung three times on my right hand, the one I was using to remove the Apistan strips (I don't wear gloves when beekeeping.)
My hands are in desperate need of handcream, and not looking all that great to begin with, but I think you can see the difference between my left and hand and my right!
Oddly enough, being stung three times makes me feel like I'm a real beekeeper. Kind of a badge of honour. I said many naughty words, scraped out the stingers, and kept going. And poor Pierre was savaged. He got stung about 20 times, including on the ear by a bee who followed away from the hives and got revenge after we took off our bee veils. I unhelpfully backed away laughing while they were attacking him.
Yes, laughing. For some reason, we were both laughing, even as we swore and called the girls "b*tches!" We did look kind of funny, dancing around, swatting at ourselves. And you can't really fault the bees for defending their homes at this time of year.
I hardly ever get stung, and hardly ever at my hives (usually I do something like step on a bee in my garden, or pick up a hive tool with a bee on it.) Today was the first time I've seen a hive get all feisty and mean like that. And after four years of beekeeping, it's about time I got a few stings at once!
Fortunately I don't have an allergy, but it's always possible (if unlikely) to develop one, so I do monitor myself after I'm stung. Tonight I have an itchy, achy hand that looks a bit like a baseball mitt. :)
And for those who are wondering, I don't wear gloves (with occasional exceptions, depending on what beekeeping task I'm performing) because I find they really hamper my dexterity, and make it more likely that I'll squish a bee (and enrage her hivemates) or drop something. Gloves are just a personal choice. Gordon always wears gloves; he swells up a lot when he gets stung and finds it more uncomfortable than I do.
Before I left, Pierre and I sat down for a drink and a chat. He gave me a container of his delicious cinnamon creamed honey. He asked me if I'm going to wear gloves now. "No way!" I said. I could tell he was pleased.