Let them

bees and the many benefits they provide to humans would stand a better chance of surviving if people weren’t so afraid of being stung by them. I grew up with bees and spent some time running from them when they zipped out of the hives in my backyard and chased me — only because I was drawing attention by moving too quickly near their work zone.

Looking back, I realize I was never stung. Nevertheless, danger seemed real because the bees dove at me and chased me a long distance across the yard, keeping me at what they considered a safe distance. But bees can learn that you’re not a threat if you move carefully when you’re near them.

I can think of two times when I was stung. One was when I was mowing high weeds in the countryside and stirred up a nest of hornets. The other was when I stepped on a honeybee in my backyard just before I flew to South America.

Two stings do not constitute a reason to consider bees, wasps and hornets intolerable pests. I’ve learned to expect them not to sting me, even when I am with thousands of them.

My previous home was on a property with a large grape arbor. When I mowed grass during late summer and early fall, bees and other stingers threatened to attack if I insisted on mowing close to the arbor. The threat to my children concerned me, too.

The harassment became bad enough that I determined to reduce the population accumulating at the arbor. I put about a half inch of sugary water in two plastic ice cream pails and put the lids on. I cut a two-inch flap in the lids and bent them back to allow all stingers to enter and feast themselves into a stupor. When I returned home in the afternoon, I walked somewhat slowly up to the pails, where the insects swarmed around me, and pressed the flaps on the lids to close them.

I repeated this technique day after day, collecting fifty to a hundred each time. I put my first catch in the freezer overnight and tossed them out onto the driveway in the morning. To my shock, they were nowhere to be seen when I returned home in the afternoon. They had thawed and flown straight back to the arbor.

The next approach was to flush the daily catch down the toilet. That worked like a charm, although some of my family were worried that they might get stung while sitting on the potty. If bees could resurrect after a night in the freezer, couldn’t they come back up through the toilet? Nope.

Out of necessity, everyone was soon using the bathroom again with full confidence.

I disposed of more than 1,000 bees and other stingers that year, and my yard offered enough of a habitat that they easily rebounded. This year, I’ve been working against carpenter bees. They bored holes into the cedar trim on my garage while I wasn’t looking. I thought they were just hanging out. I could’ve persuaded them to nest elsewhere by seeking guidance from the local Purdue Extension office.

I’ve certainly enjoyed picking off these oversized pollenators midair with a fly swatter, but I’ve decided to live in peace with them, as far as possible. If I move slowly — not too slowly — they will almost ignore me even at close range. So I filmed them in action and documented their stunning, rapid tunnel work. It is a sight to behold.

Farmers and naturalists say bees and other stinging insects are exceedingly beneficial to us. The Purdue Extension office can help us coexist with them.

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.