We can be prickly sometimes

Stacey Gross Times Observer News Reporter

I have a confession.

I’m terrified of bees.

Not for any good reason. I just really, really hate them. I think it’s because I never ate honey until I acquired a coffee maker that could brew espresso pods. It was then that I began making americanos at home, and I substituted what I lacked in sugar with honey because no one drinks black espresso except maybe crazy people.

I mean, to each their own and all of that. But I’m gonna sweeten my coffee.

Because I love myself.

I’m not sure why I never used honey before. I remember not liking it as a kid, but then I also remember not liking shredded wheat or brussels sprouts as a kid too. Kids are kinda dumb when it comes to stuff that tastes good. But after dumping a bit of honey into my americano that one morning I licked the spoon before tossing it in the sink and, you guys?

I’ve never smoked crack. Full disclosure.

Believe it or not.

But I understood in that moment, when my tongue hit the sticky, golden belly of that spoon, precisely how it feels when the crack-loving part of the human brain gets lit up. Because I’m absolutely certain that the honey-loving part and the crack-loving part are the exact same part.

One hundred percent.

Anyhow, ever since that fateful day I’ve had a real bad dissonance-type issue between my prejudicial and irrational hatred for bees and my utter, utter infatuation with – let’s be very honest here – their regurge.

Regurge. (ree-guhr-j). Noun. 1. What bees spit out after consuming nectar. 2. Not technically vomit, because it’s never actually in their stomachs, nor ever in contact with the food that precipitates it, but still kind of janky just, like, as a general concept. 3. An inconvenient delight.

I think what originally put me off honey as a kid is the same reason I couldn’t come up with any legitimate reason to drink the lactation of another mammal species.

Milk, you guys.

I’m talking about milk.

The entire concept of milk still kind of gags me a little bit.

But lattes.


Once I became a honey junkie, I started feeling bad about every bee I’d ever killed. In my defense, every honeybee I’ve ever killed was actively trying to sting me, and I remain committed to the eradication of aggressive bees. Mainly because I turn into a terrified little girl child every time one comes near me.

It’s embarrassing.

It’s just automatic. It cannot be changed or stopped or healed. My amygdala goes ape at the very suggestion of the little wieners. I have zero control over it.

I have, however, revised my plot to murder any honeybee that’s foolish enough to approach me, and now I’ve taken all that irrational fear and channeled it directly into a full-on campaign of wasp and hornet genocide. And let me speak very plainly here: I do not care.

I give less than zero craps what wasps or hornets do for my garden, or to control other pests, or what happens to my soul when I smash one with a flip flop.

It is impossible for me to care less about the morality of my blanket position in favor of indiscriminate wasp/hornet murder.

It’s not up for debate. I’m not going to have a conversation about it. If you are some kind of psychopathic clipboard person who has taken it upon himself to advocate for the filthy lives of wasps and/or hornets, then I’d like to invite you to take a look at that great big hill looming off in the distance.

You see it?


Because way over there is where you can go with that garbage.

I’ll hear none of it.

When the girls and I got home two nights ago, they jumped out of the car without getting any of their crap out of the backseat, because they’re six, so of course they did. And, as I tarried behind to de-child the car I heard them squeal from the driveway behind me. I waited a moment to ascertain whether it was a good squeal or a pre-fisticuffs squeal, and turned around, relieved, upon confirmation that it was, indeed, a squeal of delight.

“Look, mama,” June yelled in my direction even though I was less that seven feet from her and an inside voice would have been more than sufficient. I let my gaze travel from her face down her narrow arm and drop from the tip of her pointed index finger to a small, black spot on the gravel. I cannot begin to imagine how on earth both girls managed to spot this tiny speck of a bee, twitching on a rock at their feet, when they appear to be abjectly incapable of ever, ever finding shoes, or underwear, or socks, or glasses, or toys, or garbage that they’re supposed to have thrown away but is mysteriously strewn about the living room, or snacks in my “snack desert” of a kitchen.

It’s not a snack desert, by the way. They just have that one pediatric disorder where they crave only those foods which either (a) I don’t have in the house or (b) I won’t have in the house because they contain an entire daily allotment of calories in a single three-ounce processed morsel.

Anyhow, that’s exactly what it was. A wee, furry bit of a thing, nearly too spent to even get herself to the relative safety of my unmowed lawn before tapping out. As bees go, it was actually a decent-sized member of the tribe, of the aptly-named “bombus” genus. The girls immediately ran to get a fresh bloom from the Rose of Sharon beside the porch, and I went inside to mix up some sugar paste.

As it’s recently become fashionable to save the bees, there has been no shortage of pointers on how to revive exhausted bees. Like, on the Facebooks and whatnot. I threw a tablespoon of sugar into a cup and added a splash of water to get it just viscous enough that she’d be able to suck it up with that proboscis of hers, but still sticky enough that I could dab it inside the flower. I’d have just stuck her on a plate but the girls insisted that “she needs that flower, mom. She needs somewhere safe to hide. It’s her tent.”

I do not care who you are, if a six-year-old tells you that an exhausted bumblebee needs a flower tent, you’re going to shut your mouth and put the bee in the flower tent. And that’s just the end of it. So I smeared some sugar paste inside the flower, and we put the flower right down next to her and I crap you not you guys that bee dove onto its bumpy, powdered stigma and crawled right down it, nimble as a marine on a rope bridge, to nestle herself tight and snug against the fuschia center of the bud. And there she remained, at least until the girls and I went to bed.

At seven p.m.

I know. I can’t imagine why I’m still single either.

I only live the life of an eighty-six-year-old.

One of the boring ones.

Anyhow, she was gone the next morning. I like to think she took a little nap in the flower, had a bite to eat, and set off on her way again. I mean, bumblebees only live like, what? Twenty-eight days or something stupid like that? I’d hate to think she got picked off by a larger predator, but I have to be honest. If my luck is something that surrounds me and my home, she probably got eaten by a passing hawk with x-ray vision who spotted her from 500 feet in the air or something.

Whatever happened to her, I felt really good about the fact that we gave her a flower tent and some sugar and a place to get herself together. It struck me, watching her laying on the rock, using the last of her energy just to try and get comfortable, that moms are basically bees. We have so little time to do all of the things that need to be done, and every pursuit stems from, and finds its way back to, the hive. The young. We can be kind of prickly sometimes, and we’re often round and furry, and we will work ourselves to death — or at least to the point of exhaustion — if you let us. Just like Ms. Bumbles.

Okay. Fine. So I named the bee, alright?

You shut your mouth.

I’m adorable.

Also, just like Ms. Bumbles, we can and sometimes do sting repeatedly, but you have to work really, really hard to get us mad enough to actually do it.

Or cut in front of us at the Starbucks.

Either will work.

I admit, I still had that heart-in-the-throat feeling as I scooped the flower containing Ms. Bumbles up and placed it on the plate, and then carried the plate to the little table on the porch, and then sat there for an hour with my face pressed up against the opening of the flower, just watching her be her. But I think it was the similarities between her and I, at that point in the day, that made the curiosity and empathy greater than the reptilian anxiety.


That was my Wednesday.