The Bear Who Ate Honey & The Kindness of Women

Upon waking I settled my blurry glaze outside the window, as I generally do. I registered abnormalities, changes to an anticipated view.  In Vermont it was a bald eagle, wild turkeys, the surface of the pond that registered as an anomaly. Today, emerging out of bed, the structure of the beehive—visible out all the west facing windows– had become a pair of cinderblocks strapped to a tipped over honey super. That alarming configuration was short the deep super, the bottom box.  Grabbing a robe, with Max ahead of me, any remnants of slumber quickly turned to panic. Max’s bark immediately startled a large-very large, I mean VERY large black bear. It scared the bee- Jesus out of me.  The amorphous blubber of dark fur was happily devouring the labor of billions of bee hours.  His face was drooling with glee, and to my repulsion. That meal was the planned sustenance– used by the huddle of fanning wings– in the hope of surviving the winter. Contributing to their larder, I cooked a syrup of equal parts sugar to water and kept the feeder plentiful, 1-2 quarts a day for about 4 months. 

I have been known to let Max herd deer or turkeys, or chase an occasional gopher of squirrel, but I draw the line at a bear the size of a Volkswagen. My shriek was convincing enough to register an about-face for the dog who has a mind of his own. 

I badly wanted to assess the damage of the hive. However, walking up to a large, clawed, unfamiliar animal of the wild who was enjoying an unforeseen windfall of sweetness, I knew better. A 911 call was rapidly deployed. After having my emergency coordinates taken, the dispatcher pointed out that I should not be using the 911-line for such “non-emergency matters”.  I explained that it sure seemed like an emergency to me, as my dog darted out to see the big shadow of a bear devouring the fruits of the apiary, such as it were.

It took longer than I would expect for a “true emergency”,  and I began to cold call sources listed as Wildlife Control services, impatient for further instructions.  Soon after, a petite female Assistant Animal Control Officer arrived. Clearly an animal lover, she greeted Max affectionately and I steered her to the scene of the crime in place. Brimming with confidence, she was a welcome addition to the threesome.  She used a taser to get the bear to scat and expressed sympathy for the shambled beehive. On the ground were clumps of bees balling up to stay warm in the 50-degree day. She and I both shared amazement for a YouTube video we simultaneously recalled; of a woman who– with bare hands– held a ball of bees containing the queen. A must see!  The Officer shared some useful information regarding solar electric fences. Unlike other business I’ve encountered with ‘uniformed gentleman”,  I didn’t find it necessary to be on my best behavior, scrutinized more–it seemed, than a lifetime of therapists.  

I had a half hour to clean up the evidence of my sketchy environment before a prospective client and their pooch were to arrive.  Recently, I had made myself available to do dog boarding, through the doggy Airbnb. The compensation was minimal, but the guilt of my lonely dog was assuaged.  This side hustle was enough social interaction that Max wouldn’t have to stand in the middle of the street, advertising his availability and alert to the distant sounds of car doors opening.  Max, being a ‘doodle’, needs to fill his dance card, by the nature of his breeding. Go figure. 

It was a heartbreaking cleanup.  The top super, the honey super was intact, except for a single frame.  How that big ooff removed a single frame was a good trick.  I suited up and used my wheelbarrow to contain the damaged frames.  I found a bowl to retrieve the few oozing honey frames; careful to avoid stepping on the clumps of bees balled on the ground, intermixed with pine needle and leaves.  Perhaps 10 clumps of bees were scooped off the ground or from damaged frames and shaken back into the hive.  It was possible that one of these clumps contained the queen– or so I hoped– vital for the hive’s survival. I righted the tipped honey super and set it on the cinder blocks. 

Seeing a swarming back yard beehive had deterred some potential clients about the safety of their doggy retreat. The hive was especially active in leu of the morning excitement, landings coming from all directions. Pity the air traffic controller.   

Arrive Sadie, the cutest white furry replica of a wind-up toy. Also, a golden doodle, she bore little resemblance to Max.  Max was a naturalized version, scuffy and in need of a bath.  Sadie bounced off the ground, as though she existed in a gravitation field of her own. Like all dogs, Sadie explored the perimeter of my wilderness/yard and reappeared with small annoying little thorns covering her snowy white fluff.  Sadie’s owner pronounced her coat as spotted, and I sensed her displeasure. Thorns and bees, I’ll pass. 

Decompressing after the interview failure– too bad because it was a lucrative holiday engagement— while looking though emails to find my beekeeping mentor—and divulge the sad news– I came across a Garrison Keillor story. After a lifetime with a fellow Minnesota native, I generally find some parts speaks to me. 

This was true today, and I share this with praise to the “kindness of woman”. 

Small talk as the instrument of civility   By Garrison Keillor

A male nurse did a blood draw on me the other day, and as he tied the rubber strip around my upper arm, I said, “I’ve had this done about seventy times, you’re competing against some of the best, and you know that women are better at it than men. They have the kindness gene. Men are inherently aggressive. In your unconscious mind, you’re stabbing an enemy.” He laughed, a genuine hearty laugh — I’ve been in the business a long time, I can tell genuine from forced — and stuck me and said, “I’m afraid that was only a C plus. You made me self-conscious.” He chuckled.

With gratitude for the Animal Control Officer, for she did not raise my dander any more than the bear who ate the honey.

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To be defined as an Artist, an entrepreneur, an educator, writer, curator, mother, would miss the life that created the whole.

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