Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Natural Misunderstanding

Well last post was December 17th. How did THAT happen? Every time I go several months without posting, I swear that I will be better about blogging and it just doesn't I will just say I will do the best I can.

I had two interesting encounters with nature this week. Tuesday morning I was out on one of my prairies doing a bird census. Right now, the grasses and flowers are reaching their peak in terms of blooms and height. A good portion of this prairie has plants that are at least 6 feet tall and I spend a great deal of time wading through this sea of grasses looking for birds.

Tuesday morning I was walking through a cluster of Bee Balm. As I passed through the flowers, I noticed several bumblebees and honey bees but paid them little attention. While I don't plow through an area full of bees, I don't go out of my way to avoid them. Usually the bees leave me alone as I pass. But not that day. I was in the midst of walking through these flowers when I felt a sharp pain on my upper thigh. A stinging pain, as in a bee sting.

Not the actual offending bee, but probably his brother.

I'm glad there was no one around because I'm not sure I would have wanted someone to over hear the rather loud conversation I had with myself.

"Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow!" I shouted, wondering if I walked through a patch of thorns. But the pain persisted. In fact, it got worse. I looked down and found a bumble bee on my thigh.

"Oh my God bee! Get off me!!" I screamed, brushing the now dead bee off my leg.

"Ow ow ow ow. Holy $hit!!" I continued, practically running through the dense prairie vegetation as if to outrun the pain. Um, no. You can't outrun a bee sting on your thigh or any part of your body for that matter.

I slowed down and continued my bird census in a bit of a daze. I got stung! In the 10 years of field work of outrunning angry wasps flying around nest boxes and walking through fields of bees, I had NEVER been stung. NEVER. Even in childhood, I had somehow managed to avoid stinging insects. And now, the sting-free record was broken. In a way, I had prided myself in avoiding stings all these years. I got sunburns, poison ivy rashes, mild dehydration, an occasional back strain and endless mosquito bites but NEVER a bee or a wasp sting.

When I got home, I found a large red area at least 4 inches in diameter on my thigh. I kept ice on my wound and whined about it most of the day. The pain lasted most of the day but finally subsided by the time I went to bed. By the next morning, most of the irritation had disappeared and the sting site only hurt if I poked it.

Today I went out to the Ecology Center to set up mist nets for Monday. My equipment is kept in a small room in the office basement and when I went in the room to grab my bird box, there was a bumble bee crawling around on the floor. I put my equipment next to the door, grabbed a cup and a laminated piece of paper and warily approached the bee. I put the cup over the bee.


The cup vibrated, causing me to flinch with each angry buzz.

Now I had to slip the laminated paper under the cup.


Oh my gawd if I failed in getting this bee outside, it was going to kick my a$$. So I called Bug Lady. This is a paraphrased version of our conversation:

"Hey Bug Lady. I'm at the Ecology Center and there's a bumble bee in the basement. I've got him trapped in a cup but I don't know how to release him."

"Do you have access to a broom?" she asked.

I frowned as I stared at the buzzing cup. What did she want me to do? Sweep the bee out? How was that going to work?

"Umm no. But there's a shovel outside. Should I get something softer like a broom?" I asked.

"No. The point is you want a long stick so when you take him outside, you're going to knock the cup over with the stick and get your buns back inside."

"Ohhh. Ok."

I brought the shovel in from outside and stuck it next to the door and willed myself to pick the bee up.


The angry buzzing nearly caused me to drop the cup/paper and filled me with fear. Holding this flimsy piece of paper wasn't the best idea. What if this bee decided to attack and sting the paper? My hand was right on the other side! I put the cup/bee/paper on a nearby table to pick up a garden glove when somehow the bee slipped out of the cup and began flying around the room.

I don't think I ever moved that fast running out of the basement to the safety of the outdoors. I'm pretty sure I blacked out while running because one moment I was staring at the bee and the next moment I was outside slamming the door shut in fear.

He's still in the basement and with my luck he's in my supply box waiting to ambush me tomorrow morning.


  1. A bumble bee caused me to roll a car. Imagine one of those monsters hitting your outside mirror and bouncing into your car and inside the pocket of your shirt. I looked down to try and flip that angry buzzer out of my pocket, and ran off a twisty road. I tried to get back on, but yanked too hard and flipped the car. Three times. Like slow motion. A concussion and dislocated shoulder later, the bee was nowhere to be found. I didn't even get stung. Always wear a seat belt. Especially in bee country.

    Maybe this bee won't recognize you when you come back. Or hold a grudge.

  2. Sorry about the bee sting! But it made a GREAT story! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Life...I must confess that my second thought (after realizing my bee sting free record was broken) was "This will make a GREAT entry!" and it did get the creative juices flowing again. ;)

    Hillbilly Mom...Wow! Thank goodness you weren't seriously hurt. And based on how LOUD the buzzing was, I can imagine the knee jerk reaction. Yikes! And I was very wary this morning when I entered the basement and cautiously picked up my box of bird supplies, there was no bee around.