To Bee or Not to Bee

The other day the wind howled as we worked the honeybees at the Wallace Creek gravel pit. In an offhand way, Paul said, “There’s a bee trying to get in my ear. She probably just wants to get warm.”

Paul has shaggy ears, so I can understand how they might look like a refuge from the storm. Bees somehow get inside our bee veils all the time, but Paul never ripped his off to shoo that bee away. He never stopped working. He merely remarked.

He continued: “A bee could get stuck in your ear. You might have to get somebody to get her out with forceps.” Paul loves to talk like this.

I had a honeybee up my nose once, but one of those little darlings inside my ear sounded downright distracting. “You’re giving me the creeps,” I said.

“Maybe the bee would crawl right inside your head,” Paul said with a wry smile.

“She wouldn’t get past my eardrum,” I said.

Paul said, “A bee couldn’t sting your eardrum, because she’d have to back in to do it.”

I said, “Who mentioned anything about eardrums getting stung? I think any sting inside your ear would really light you up. You know, I’d wear ear plugs, but I can’t hear that well even without them.”

Paul said, “I think you have better things to worry about.”

Back in the truck, Derrick turned up the radio. He said, “This song really gets to me. Have you seen the video?”

I said, “No. I also can’t make out the words.”

Derrick said, “It’s about this woman who kills her little girl.”

“You’re kidding,” I said.

Derrick said, “First the girl hides her bruises at school. Then she ends up at the cemetery. You should see the country video.”

“I’d rather not,” I said.

Just then I thought I caught some of the words. I said, “`Name on a polished stone?’ Did I hear that?” Derrick said, “Yeah, `name on a polished stone.’ That’s her gravestone.”

Derrick, who is 21, recently came back to work for Paul after a couple of years away. He rhapsodizes about how this job is better than his last one, managing a shoe store. I concur. You couldn’t ask for a better job.

Paul drives the truck. At first Derrick sat in the middle, out of deference to my advanced age, I suppose. But as soon as I made it clear that we’re all equals, bro, he kind of seized on the shotgun position. With the window down, he can smoke. You really can’t smoke in the middle.

In the shop the next day I said, “Derrick, the name of that song is `Stone Baby,’ right?”

Derrick gave me a look. “`Concrete Angel,'” he said.

“Concrete Angel and Stone Baby kind of sound the same to me,” I said. Derrick shook his head. Didn’t I know anything? Paul chuckled at our morning banter as he headed out the door.

Between working for Paul and taking care of my own bees, I’m pretty busy. Here on the farm, I have hives to divide, new queens to introduce, pollen traps to put on, hive boxes to assemble and paint, electric bear fence to put up, and bees to get ready to move. Meanwhile, I haven’t pruned a single apple tree. I need to re-do our radiant floor heating system at the house, because the plumber installed the wrong pipe. (Now I can’t find him.) I have a couple of columns to write.

Even though I dreamed we won $3 billion in the lottery, the reality is that Linda and I will never be rich. Still, we both love what we do. We have our health (knock on wood). We have Spot. We have the bees. The universe looks OK from here.

Everything will be just fine, as long as a bee doesn’t crawl inside my ear.

New Castle beekeeper Ed Colby’s column appears in the Post Independent every other Sunday. You can reach Ed at

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