I got the bright idea relatively late this morning (after the day started to heat up) to go out and remove the bee feeder so I could clean it. After I had opened the hive up and pulled the top feeder I figured I’d go ahead and swap out some of the now-drawn honey super frames as well so that hopefully the bees would start drawing comb on the new frames and I could use the full frames to feed through the winter and then have empty comb ready in case we get a decent spring flow next year. I left the hive open, headed into the garage and got some blank frames, and went back over to the hive and started to pull a frame.
And I was met with a wave of bees. Not just the usual one or two that do their due diligence in buzzing around and making sure you know they are unhappy with you taking apart their house, but hundreds. And they were not happy. Despite the bees bouncing off my lightweight (and untucked) bee jacket like hailstones, I remained relatively calm, decided it had been a bad idea to go after the frames, and started to close the hive back up… Then I realized I had a bee on the inside of the jacket and it was bouncing off my glasses. All caution thrown to the wind, I swatted it against my face along the idea of at that point the odds were better of not being stung in the eye by trying to kill it before it could sting than of leaving it alone. I was successful on that one, but the arm movement to swat at it seemed to trigger the others to start stinging.
At least 7 stings later I made it back to the relative safety of the back porch which, being out of sight of the hive, usually gets all but the most adamant of defensive bees to turn around and give up the chase. In this case that still worked, but then I realized there were still several bees inside the bee jacket. I didn’t want to bring them in the house, so in a wild bout of unattractive strip-tease I managed to yank off the bee jacket, brush a few straggler bees off my shirt and jeans, open the back door, get inside and slam it shut.
Moral of the story – when you decide to be stupid around bees they are not afraid to remind you of the consequences of your stupidity. In this case I had been lulled into complacency by my habit of feeding them early in the morning when the air is still cool, and most of the time my doing so barely elicits a change in tone from the colony. That is a relatively quick and non-invasive activity, which was my intent when I went out this morning. Had I taken the smoker and worn my heavier suit, or potentially even just had take the step to tuck in the bee jacket, I could well have done what I decided to do at the last minute today without any stings… But I didn’t, and I my tuition for the lesson are a few stingers in me, a few dead bees, and a backyard colony that’s gong to need a few hours to settle back down (so I’ll probably use the clothes dryer for laundry today instead of the clothesline).