Oct 24, 2012
A passerby would have been treated to a curious rural pantomime of a sock-less white guy in shaggy shorts and sneakers swatting wildly while covering ground at an impressive clip (given his age).
The ground-nesting demons got me eight times.
Few men expect a life-or-death encounter cutting weeds in early October, yet more Americans are killed by bee swarms than by lightning strikes and snake bites combined.
Some scientists link exploding wasp populations to global climate change, and 2012, like 2011, was another high-wasp year, as freakishly early springs added extra weeks of nesting weather.
The nests are not hard to spot — a short column of insects coming and going from a 1-inch hole — but one must pay attention, eyes on the turf from mid-summer on (tall grass being a special hazard).
The classic tragedy is the guy cutting hay who disturbs a hive. As my neighbor related, that happened in nearby Pennsylvania this summer; desperate to escape the swarm, he stumbled while jumping from the tractor and it ran over him.
I wondered out loud if that gets blamed officially on the tractor or bees. “Don’t know,” said my neighbor. “But I been planning to get my bush-hog out. Maybe I’ll wait till frost.”
Another neighbor spent a month in the hospital a few years back, in coma most of the time, when yellow-jackets stung him 77 times.
Last week, I went out to hang laundry where my wife always does, on vineyard wires near the house. Right where she always stands, I spied the tell-tale buzzing column.
I went back in and warned family.
“I’ll kill them after dark when they calm down,” I told them. “Don’t go there.”
“Isn’t that like the fifth or sixth one this year?” said my 12-year-old.