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  • Patty Ihm

Behind the Veil of a Beekeeper


I got a new bee suit. It's white, with three layers of mesh and a double zipper system to keep me completely covered and to prevent stings. My first bee suit, which I bought for almost a hundred dollars, was my favorite shade of pink. It, too, had multiple zippers and great reviews. It didn't, however, keep me from getting stung about 200 times one painful and frightening afternoon. The pink suit was a thin cotton canvas-type material which, when met by angry bees, made me a penetrable target.


I was two months into being a beekeeper, and I was, admittedly, feeling pretty pleased with myself for having prevailed to that point. The boxes were stacked and ready for harvest. I had several tasks to complete before pulling the honey, but I was armed with my pink suit and my smoker. I may have even thought I was invincible. I had considered going bare-handed, but I settled for nitrile gloves. As I spent a little too much time in the hives, my smoker went out. This didn't worry me, though, because I was zippered in and safe from my increasingly agitated colony of bees. I kept working through the first few stings, admittedly perplexed. Before long, I was at the mercy of my own inexperience. I spent a few unsettling hours on the bathroom floor that afternoon. Once I felt a bit better, I ordered my new mesh bee suit.


Maybe I think I'm safe, but I'm not. So often through the trials of parenting, the path seems so clear until the tree falls. It's easy to have that sense of security, just a bit removed from the real stuff. Inside the safety of my zippered suit and veil, I can explore the wonders that cannot be explained, the harmonious selfless buzzing fellowship that is responsible for most of what nourishes our bodies. When things are going well, I don't consider the other side. It's just too much. When the trusted medication is no longer effective, when the bees sting through my suit, I am blindsided by what what, perhaps, I should have expected.


Though I have been in the hives many times since this fateful day, my guard remains high. I miss the feeling of thinking myself mighty. That, I am certainly not. I have been stung just a time or two since the pink suit situation, but never through the mesh suit; not yet, anyway. I did cut into a nerve on my finger with my pocket knife when I was doing some preparation for winter. This time it was blood, not venom, that made my face pale. Even my new white bee suit cannot protect me from myself.


The cuts are deep; it has been a challenging year with my children. The children, as the bees, continue to be my greatest teachers. Perhaps I am not cut out for this: any of it. But I will never know, because there are bandages and new lessons to try, and I'm going to zip up the suit, light my smoker and keep on going.



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