Then I started keeping bees.
There is something about beekeeping that is both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I’m sure for the more experienced beekeeper the terrifying part becomes diluted or disappears but for me, a newbee, it is still very much alive.
One of the most surprising things to me about beekeeping is how tame the bees actually are (as long as you don’t piss them off or catch them on a very bad day). When you are working the hive they fly all around you zooming this way and that. They land on your head and back and anywhere else they please and just sit quietly watching you work.
I don’t wear gloves when I’m working my bees because I find gloves in any capacity cumbersome. I hate them even in the garden, I’d rather just get my hands full of dirt and feel the earth on my skin. When I’m working my hive I often have bees that fly or crawl onto my hand and just stay put. The first few times this happened I freaked out, looking the fool, flailing about and shaking or brushing them off my hand as quickly as I could. But over time these creatures grew on me in a way only bees can.
The bees land on my bare hand and they just sit and stare up at me with all five of their eyes as if to say “Hi, I know it’s only you, please don’t kill too many of my brothers and sisters and kindly put everything back where you found it.” Meanwhile, I rudely rifle through their home pulling apart their nursery, confusing their nursemaids, ripping apart their kitchen, raiding their refrigerator and mistakenly squishing their brothers and sisters that happen to get in the way. What would you do in that circumstance? Just sit idly by and watch it happen?
Honeybees are more or less gentle in nature and surprisingly tame when you understand their basic needs and work on their terms. A sting for them means certain death and they reserve it for the most dire circumstances. The “less gentle” part is always in the back of your head, conditioned from childhood and life experiences. The thrill comes in being able to master that most of the time, and the satisfaction comes from “taming” a feared and incredibly impressive being while arriving on the other side unscathed.
Now when I watch those crocodile hunters and snake wranglers on TV in a strange way I can relate to them. The awe and excitement of working with such an impressive creature is similar to how I feel about my bees. Instead of thinking that somehow those people lost some marbles along the way, I wonder, perhaps they know something due to their unique relationship with those animals, that I just don’t fully understand.