Friday, August 20, 2010

A "sting" operation with a colony of bees and a North Carolina deputy sheriff!

(Wake County, North Carolina): A sheriff's deputy was trapped in his car for three hours as tens of thousands of honeybees swarmed his vehicle.

Wake County deputy sheriff, Brandon Jenkins, answered a distress call of a disabled truck in the middle of the night. The vehicle was pulling a trailer of honeybee hives. As he helped load some of the broken boxes of bees back on the truck, they began to get irritable.

Jenkins, who took refuge in his squad car, could only watch as about 50,000 of the stingers swarmed over it. Wake County sheriff's spokeswoman Phyllis Stevens said: "They were confused, without their queen, they swarmed the police car probably because that was the biggest thing around that they could find."

The deputy even had to resort to deadly force when a few of the intruders got inside. "It was more or less self-defense," he said. " There were a couple of bees in my personal space, my comfort zone, and I just wanted to get them out."

Jennifer Keller, a beekeeping expert from North Carolina State University, was called to help and sprayed sugar water on the insects so they would lick each other and regroup, making it easier for the insects to be returned to their hives.

"I had never seen anything quite like that," Keller said. "The bees had nowhere to go. I guess they used the car as a resting spot ... I got one sting. I struck a bee, so it was my own fault."

Wake County surrounds Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Telling the bees: My brother, a former beekeeper, died...

We buried my brother, Wayne, on Monday. He was 64 and my oldest brother. After a lifetime of being plagued with health problems; from a car weck that left him pieced together with metal and screws, and multiple back surgeries that left him practically crippled...he had a devastating stroke months ago. That was the beginning of the end for Wayne. From one setback after another, my family and I knew that he wouldn't rebound when they placed him in Hospice care two weeks ago. That's when the watch began. After two long weeks of struggling to live, in the most pitiful sight my eyes have ever beheld, he drew his last breath at 4 o'clock on Friday morning, August 6th, and left this life forever. His long and difficult journey is now over.

A myriad of emotions have flooded me in the last few weeks...but especially since he died days ago. Needless to say, I miss him. I know I'll never hear him call my name or make me laugh by some silliness we've cooked up together. Even though he was almost 17 years older than me and grown when I came along, he influenced me in so many ways while I was growing up. Because of him I became a CB radio operator many, many years ago. And I would be glued to his every word when he would talk about beekeeping. At one point, Wayne and his father-in-law, Horace, kept over 20 hives of bees...and I loved to hear him talk about catching swarms and queen bees and robbing bees and getting stung. I think he's responsible for my fascination with bees and why I'm a beekeeper now.

Maybe it was just fate or maybe it was some divine guidance that caused me to harvest my first honey just weeks before Wayne fell ill. While he lay dying in the Hospice unit, I took a jar of my honey so he could see it and because I knew he would be proud of me. Even though he was weak and sick, he bragged that it was beautiful honey and that I did a good job. And while I was there, in addition to the many other things we talked about, he told me over and over to take care of my bees...and I promised him I would.

But maybe what touched me most of all is that he asked his brother-in-law, Robbie, to feed him some of my honey. He couldn't eat anything else by that point, he had trouble swallowing, but he wanted to taste that honey which I brought to him. And he really liked too. It was also the last bit of food he ate before he slipped into unconsciousness. And that jar of honey stayed by his bedside until he died. When he died on Friday morning, I took the honey with me when I left the hospital. After all, it was his honey and I wanted him to have it forever.

On Sunday night, when my family arrived at the funeral home, I took that jar of honey and placed it in the casket with Wayne. The funeral director told me that the ancient Egyptians put honey in their tombs, so I guess in some way, I was carrying on some unintentional tradition. All I really knew was that I wanted my brother to have that special honey forever...and he will. My family, especially my sister-in-law, Carol, thought it was a fitting tribute by me to include the honey in his casket. It will be there long past my own departure from this earth.

Did I go tell my bees that my brother, a former beekeeper and my inspiration, had died? No. When I got home from the hospital on the morning of his death, I visited my hives while waiting to go make arrangements at the funeral home. I didn't tell the bees as they say because I was so flooded with emotions and worn out that I couldn't think clearly. But the next time I work my hives, I plan to lean down and whisper "good job" to the girls in the yellow hive which made the honey. I feel they deserve it and my brother would like that too. I'll tell them for Wayne. 

Farewell, my brother. I love you.