Mind Your Bees

The honeybee lands on the upper part of my leg, and I let it sit there for a while. Its body is not as luminous as the bumble bee, but its faded brown and black stripes serve for better camouflage amidst the Kentucky foliage. I watch the middle school softball game unfold before me while I happily occupy the bench. I know I will strike out as soon as my name is called to the plate.

For now, I listen to the chatter of prepubescent girls nearby and wonder if I’m somehow different for not caring about the latest JTT fad or what flavor of Lip Smacker chapstick is popular this week. And then there are the girls that scream and jump up and down, swatting at the wasps and bees that occupy this space between the fence and the bleachers.

The teammate to my right, who is already tan for the summer and recently cut her mousy brown hair to her chin, looks down at the bee on my leg. It tickles as it moves around, and I hope it doesn’t attempt to burrow into my exposed skin.

“I can’t believe you’re just letting it sit there,” she says, scooting an inch to her left.

“I’ve been stung by bees five times in my life. I’ve learned the hard way.”

Just then, the honeybee flies away, and my muscles relax. Because I’ve been stung five times, I am also more frightened of anything small that flies.

And as I’ve often told my mom, I will no longer wear flower-printed shirts. The last time I wore a t-shirt with huge purple, glittery flowers on the front, a bee flew into my shirt and bit and stung until it finally escaped to its death. I thought for sure I was dying during that game of kickball. My friend at the time made fun of my hysterics, but as my dad placed an ice cube on my back where the stinger had been and promised it wouldn’t hurt, I calmed down.

After what I would consider a traumatizing and embarrassing moment of my childhood, I promised never again to let the bees get the better of me. So I stopped wearing flowered shirts, and I stopped walking around barefoot in the backyard (also stepped on a few bees that way). By the time I started playing softball in middle school, I thought I was cursed, and even with my rules, I felt I was fated to be stung at least once a season.

But almost 20 years later, I have yet to step on another bee. And I am no longer afraid of them, although from time to time, their buzzing brings back a certain feeling of frenzy. In fact, I kind of feel for them now. This environment is a detriment to their health, and I realize how important they are for food production.

Does that make me want to cup one of those honeybees in my hand and admire their thin v-shaped wings and the little hairs on their bodies? Not quite. I still freeze when one comes near, even in the urban environment of DC. But after it flies away, I hope it doesn’t come face to face with the back end of its stinger.

I have yet to put on another flower-printed shirt.

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