My first night out with the bees


Tara Easter, International Intern

Date Published

On the last day that Carley and I were on site by ourselves, I was about to crack. Balancing camp life (no, not glamping) with maintaining construction projects that produce an aesthetic and professional product was exhausting to say the least.

I had battled simple tasks meant to take 10 minutes that turned into hours for days. When I finally gave up at 6 that last evening, and walked away from a still incomplete shower, Nzumu said he was going to put a superbox onto one of Kakongo’s hives and asked if we wanted to come.

I literally collapsed on the ground.

On one hand I was overwhelmed at the prospect of continuing to work with no one to start making dinner or even to wash the dishes from the day before for dinner. On the other, I wanted to go work with the bees and get something done for the actual project more than anything.

Putting a super-box onto a hive isn’t nearly as extensive of a task as harvesting honey (which I got to do the following night), but it was a great intro into working with bees hands on. This was my first time in a bee suit, and I’ll admit, I was quite intimidated. I had to constantly remind myself “it’s okay, I’m safe in here. They can’t sting you. They can’t sting you. They can’t sting you.”

Getting stung by a bee isn’t that bad, but the thing about African honey bees is that when one stings you, it puts out a pheromone that tells all the other bees to sting you as well. Lucy has been through this unpleasant experience herself. After an uncountable number of stings from three different swarms, her entire torso seized up and she was rushed to the emergency room. So when I could feel bees bouncing off of me, and I watched them crawl around on my face mask, I was a bit nervous. Then I felt like a wimp when we found out later that Nzumu had been using plastic bags as gloves when he has gone out to work without Lucy around.

Carley, completely taken aback by this said, “Nzumu, don’t the bees sting your hands?!”

He replied, “Yes, but I don’t mind. They are my friends!”