The sting

Today was spent deworming the entire flock, catching and setting the rams in separate pastures, and then reviewing, culling, and assigning each of the ewes to spend the next 50 days with either Woodruff or Siegfried. The lambs were removed to a third pasture to be kept from breeding this year. We set the wethers to run with Woodruff. A friend took Henry and 10 ewes to his place in Turbotville. Before all of this activity got started I had an hour or so after morning chores and thought that would be a good time to retreat the bee hives for tracheal mites. We have a smoker which we use to calm the bees whenever we open the hives. Because I was in a hurry I thought I could do without. It was overcast and still very cool and I thought the bees would be unwilling to venture out on such an inauspicious morning. Wrong! Thank goodness I was wearing my hooded bee jacket and gloves. The residents of each of the three hives had at me and showed no mercy. I worked quickly. After retreating back to the barn I was unable to remove my protective covers because many of the bees followed me for some distance from the hives. When I finally did remove the jacket I noticed that my jeans were covered with bee stings. You may know that the sting of a honey bee is comprised of a pair of sliding barbs on either side of a central stylus. When a bee stings the sliding movements of the barbs drive the stylus into the skin. The toxin which is then injected is called melittin. I was so impressed by the sheer number of stings that had been deposited, harmlessly (my jeans were just thick enough), that I could not resist removing one and examining it. The image below isn’t pretty. It is neither artistic nor dramatic. But, boy it is cool. [Post Script. A very erie coincidence. Stings from bees, wasps, and hornets (all belonging to a group called the Hymenoptera) are no laughing matter. On the very same day that I was beset by hundreds of angry honey bees a local man was killed by a swarm of angry yellow jacket wasps.]

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