"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

A little bee interlude

Photo by Jenna Lee on Unsplash

* This story has been written with the express permission of the main protagonist, lol.

Bees are really quite amazing little creatures, as anyone who has owned a hive and observed bees at close quarters can attest, and having a backyard hive can make a great little hobby. My husband has many hobbies and interests - perfecting his golf swing is currently top of the list, but he also enjoys surfing, watching and reading about foiling catamarans (and other sailing things), hang-gliding, wood-turning, motorbikes, and playing guitar. His less "hands-on" interests tend to come and go in a cyclical fashion, which I guess is not too different from most people.

A new interest in bees started for him when we visited a couple of specialty honey shops while on outings/holidays. You know the ones, with honey and honey products, all sorts of other honey-and-bee-related paraphernalia, and quite often also an "observation hive" behind glass so that customers can view the constant "busy as a bee" activity from the safety of the other side. We played "spot the Queen" and watched these little workers do their thing on a number of occasions. It's fascinating!!

Potential new hobby!
As is his propensity, my husband began researching bees, and hives, and beekeeping in Australia, and became more and more keen on having a hive. For my part, I was just interested in the "raw honey" aspect - the thought of producing our own honey was very appealing. We discussed the pros and cons of having our own bees, and then, for his birthday last year, I bought my husband a hive. And all the kit.

All the protective kit.

He set it up in our backyard - the requisite distance from the house and the neighbours - and a friend with years of experience in collecting bee swarms found him a swarm. A docile swarm. I didn't actually know there was such a thing as an UN-docile swarm, but apparently it's all to do with the temperament of the Queen. An aggressive Queen means an aggressive swarm, a docile Queen keeps the swarm (and therefore the hive community) docile. Happy little chappies (or, ummm, chap-esses actually).

So we had our happy swarm, and our little hive (not to mention happy budding beekeeper), and the process of producing honey had begun. It was all pretty exciting. My husband captured some lovely close-up photos and video footage - even slow motion - of the bees coming and going, some heading out from the hive and others coming back from foraging, landing with their tiny legs absolutely laden with bright yellow pollen. They are really quite mesmerising (and rather hilarious) to watch, as they come in for a wobbly landing like overloaded jumbo jets, as this YouTube clip (not ours) shows.

That's when this fascinating hobby started to turn into more of a potentially fatal adventure than a benign interest. It seems even a docile swarm will let you know when you've annoyed them one time too many.

The odd sting..... or 4
My hobby-loving husband's last bee sting had happened around a year before we even got the hive - riding his motorbike to work through a grape-growing district, he'd collided with a bee which had stung him on the neck (or perhaps the bee had collided with him). No after-effects. Before that, it had been years, unsurprisingly. As for me, I don't even remember the last bee sting I had.

Then there were the first few stings from our new bees - just 3 or 4 on his unprotected hands one afternoon - after which I found my husband lying in bed when I got home from work, feeling drowsy and a little bit "off". Somewhat concerning, but aside from a couple of swollen fingers, the effects didn't last more than a few hours.

The next couple of stings happened at dusk - this time on the hand and arm - and resulted in my sweet husband collapsing from super-low blood pressure, and sliding down under the table at a local café, where he'd walked with his eldest son merely minutes after being stung (unbeknownst to me - the sting, I mean, I knew they were heading out for coffee). Having been worded up in advance ("this might happen.......") my stepson was completely on top of it and promptly called the ambulance. Then called me. A bit of a panicky evening to be honest (for me - everyone else seemed fairly calm by comparison.......).

Several hours in ED, then discharged at around 1am, Epipen in hand.

His wife, concerned and aware of his tendency to be a little blasé and overconfident, posted some signs in the backyard, just in case he thought it couldn't possibly happen again...........

The nail in the coffin
The last sting - just one - was really plain carelessness - he'd be the first to admit it. Annoyed with himself (for testing the limits, disregarding his wife's signs..............), home alone but knowing the drill, he called the ambulance, jabbed himself with the Epipen and sat outside to wait.

"Are you the patient?" 
"Great" they said "hop in" as he got up and walked himself to the ambulance.

On the journey to hospital more symptoms started to appear - low blood pressure, fleeting loss of consciousness, and then the hives. Thank goodness for adrenaline shots.

Hours later he was discharged again. Epipen in hand. Again.

"Okay, so are we talking anaphylaxis here???"

Apparently we were. They were pretty matter-of-fact about it. It seemed that this could be the nail in the coffin of this particular short-lived hobby.

Out of options
What to do?? There was some talk of desensitisation therapy, but it would take a while and might not be that successful. The medics advised that he would need to stay away from bees. Probably forever. Before this, I think the hope had been that if well-protected he would be able to continue the hobby. But his delightful optimism, which I love most of the time, was not going to serve him well this time.

The hive has now gone to a good home. Some friends who keep bees have added our hive to their others, they do the work (well, the bees do most of it), we get some of the delicious, raw honey. It's almost a "win-win" really. But a disappointing end to what could have been a fascinating and productive hobby.

His pain, others' gain
My husband is a counsellor and discipler, and often there's nothing quite like relating your own experiences mistakes to get an important message through. And so, the story and the photos of the signs now often play quite a role in the counselling process, as my lovely husband explains to some of the people he counsels that when we live life our own way, instead of God's way, there are consequences. When we think we know better, we usually don't. And that sometimes we need to hear things - often hard things - twice, or three times, or even more, before we learn (and sometimes not even then). He learned that lesson the hard way!!!

So, for my newly anaphylactic-to-bee-venom husband, it's back to wood turning, or golf, or guitar........... or something else much less life-threatening. But the lessons learned will serve both him and his counsellees well into the future.


  1. I grew up with bees, my father made a living as an apiarist, so I understand your husbands interest in the little stingers. My dad's honey was the best, he won prizes at the Melbourne Show. I am glad that some good came out of your experience with bees. I love your signs.
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    1. Thank you for commenting Kathleen. It was a shame the hobby couldn't continue, and he was so very disappointed, but it did become a matter of life or death!!! Yes, local raw honey is amazing stuff!!
      Have a lovely day xx


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