The Bee and Me…


It was one of those horrible, avoidable accidents that happen when you’re not paying sufficient attention to the little things in your life… This week-end, I’ve been messing around in my garden shed, getting it cleared out and ready to sow this year’s crop of flowers and veg. And because it’s also where the children’s outdoor toys are stored and they were staying for the week-end, the door was secured open. Despite having scooped out a stray bee who’d wandered into the shed and kept battering herself against the window the day before – I still hadn’t got around to cleaning out the spider webs silting up the corners.

I was getting the washing in when I heard it – manic buzzing coming from the shed. I dropped the basket and ran towards the sound. There she was, a large bumble bee thrashing around, unable to escape. Feeling sick, I grabbed one of the pots and tried to lever her away from the tangling trap of old webs. But in the end I needed to use my hands and even then it was a struggle to extricate her without pulling her apart. And she was covered in a thick matt of spider silk – wickedly sticky… Still emitting a screaming buzz as she fought, spinning in my hand.

100_3866If she’d been smaller honeybee, or a fly, I’d have immediately dropped her to the ground and stepped on her to put her out of her misery. But she was so big I thought there’d be a chance – and I am very fond of bumble bees. I try to ensure I have flowers blooming in my garden all through the year for the likes of these remarkable insects. Watching them always leaves me awestruck and happy… and here was one in a horrible mess because a particular chore got missed off the list. By me.

I carried her over to my workbench in the garden and tried to free her from the white mess mummifying her. It was blowy and she was still panicking, but I managed to free her two front feet. I took her indoors. Rebecca suggested I put her in a bowl, but it was too smooth and she couldn’t keep her footing, causing her to flip onto her back which she hated. So I scooped her up in my hand.
I’d been babbling all sorts of nonsense to her… more as a comfort for me, really. And as I picked her up once more, she stopped buzzing in circles and instead kept crawling and crawling across my hand, while trying to free herself. I kept picking away at the threads encasing her wings and her lower body, but it was slow work. There was a miserable moment when I’d nearly freed one wing and she slipped over onto her back and the stray webbing wrapped itself around her two back legs I’d only recently managed to release.

I nearly gave up then. But she didn’t. She was still battling to free herself, so I took a deep breath and kept going, working at the kitchen table. I used a tiny screwdriver to tease the strands away from her wings. It was very ticklish work… she never stayed still and with one slip I’d have shredded her wings and possibly killed her. It took nearly an hour and in the end Himself man100_3868aged to cut away the last ball of webbing hanging off her back left leg with a modeller’s blade. She was still crawling across my hand, although her wings were now free. So I gently guided her onto the cutting board surface and we carried her outside. John gave it a flick, while I got ready to catch her, not convinced after her ordeal that she’d be able to fly. She launched herself into the air and we watched her fly once around the garden, before soaring over the fence.

And tomorrow morning first thing, I’m clearing out those bloody spiders’ webs.

22 responses »

    • Thank you Joanne:) Though it would have been far better if I’d cleaned out the webs in the first place and not put her through such a dreadful ordeal…

  1. Wow. I think most people (myself included) probably would have left the poor bee alone or kill it. An awful thing to say, but I wouldn’t have been as resourceful, careful, and caring as you were. You did a wonderful thing, Sarah. 🙂 Good luck cleaning out the spiderwebs.

    • It’s sweet of you to say so – but I was SO riven with guilt that I HADN’T cleaned out those wretched webs. And she was making SUCH a noise – she clearly was desperate to escape. And in all that time, with her so trapped, she never once turned on me… I simply couldn’t just leave her to it. But as I say, if she’d been smaller or a fly, I would have quickly put her out of her misery – it wouldn’t have been possible to help her.

      • “And in all that time, with her so trapped, she never once turned on me…”

        I forgot to mention that! It’s a wonder that she didn’t sting you despite her agitation.

        I was terrified of bees when I was younger, btw. I’ve never been stung – but I was so afraid of being stung that I’d freak out if a bee was nearby. Of course, my younger brother ended up being scared of bees too as a boy – but even WORSE than I was. If a bee got into the house while I was baby-sitting, he wouldn’t enter the room where the bee was until Big Sister killed it. So I had to learn to be brave…

      • I spent chunks of my childhood in Zambia which HEAVED with potentially dangerous wildlife, so when I came to England, bees and spiders seemed very inoffensive and I’ve always been fascinated by insects of all shapes and sizes. Can’t ABIDE snakes or rodents though – and even the smoothsnakes we occasionally get in the garden have me slightly flinching, although they are beautiful and completely harmless. What about you? Do you have dangerous snakes or insects you have to look out for? Other than bees of course…

      • Zambia! That must have an amazing experience. How long did you live there?

        I live in a condo (the American equivalent of a flat, except you own instead of rent it), so I don’t have to worry about a yard or the animals there… But sometimes in the spring, I’ve had problems with wasps getting inside. And wasps are NASTY compared to bees. One year they started making a nest where the outside wall of my terrace met the roof. *eeeeeek* Thankfully it was only as small as a golf ball when I found it and got rid of it.

        Thing is, the wasp problems have happened only during springs that got off to an unusually warm start. That hasn’t happened this year… But I should still start keeping an eye out for those devils.

      • My family settled in Zambia when I was 5 & then when I was 8, we came to England for a long holiday with my grandparents – and I ended up staying to go to school, while my mother and sister returned. I then made the annual trip alone on a plane to Zambia for 4 years, until my mother eventually returned to England when my parents divorced. So it was a chunk of my childhood, but not so much as it might have been…
        Wasps, eh? We don’t generally find them to be a major pest until July/October time – then you have to watch yourself eating fruit and ice cream outside… And I WOULDN’T have attempted to save a wasp!

      • That’s fascinating, though. Getting the chance to live in another country – especially one so different from where you were born – really opens up your inner world and your mind. My family didn’t travel much when I was little (my mother HATES flying), so I never had the opportunity to go outside the U.S. That’s something I want – no, need – to rectify in the future.

      • Yes… it was certainly different. I think a lot of writers have had difficult childhoods – you’re right, you mine your internal landscape when you’re under stress… The irony is that as an adult I’ve hardly gone anywhere!

      • I meant to edit that comment before I hit “Send.” My dad was actually the one who destroyed the tiny wasp nest, since I was freaking out and didn’t know how to get rid of it without getting stung….

      • Very wise – I’m fairly laid back about creepy crawlies, but I certainly wouldn’t go near a wasp nest. We have insurance to deal with those beasties!

      • *lol* You can actually stun them using glass / surface cleaners like Windex. (I don’t know what they sell in the UK that’s similar…?) I learned that from my dad that day. The chemicals in that product irritate them physically and make their wings stick together, and it’s safer to use than bug killer (especially if they’re inside the house). So now I keep lots of Windex handy, just in case. 😉

        But yeah… wasps and ice cream don’t mix.

      • It’s when the grandchildren come to stay it gets tricky – they’re both TERRIFIED of flying insects. Neither of them would come near me when I was rescuing the poor bee!

  2. You’re awesome! I love bumble bees, once I saved one from tennis court (not sure if it was hit by a ball or something o.O ) everyone looked at me as if I was crazy and why I even would risk getting sting haha

  3. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Anastasia – I was so upset, I didn’t even think about getting stung. And it was only much, much later it struck me that I was handling her for about an hour while she was very stressed – and she was constantly crawling across my hand as in the pics my husband took. He later said that he couldn’t believe how patient she was – he was convinced I was going to be stung. Though he was tactful enough not to say anything at time. Good for you taking time out of a tennis game to rescue one!

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