I saw this clip on Reddit of a guy approaching a whole swarm of bees attached to a tree. He slowly puts his hand through the mass of squirming insects and removes it a few seconds later, totally unharmed. The next time, he goes back in, he pulls off a huge of chunk of them, almost like the whole cluster was a liquid, like he was running his hands through a loosely cohesive whole.
Scrolling down through the comments, I hoped to find some sort of an explanation. And I found it. Someone wrote about how when you find bees attached to a tree or some other object, it means that they’re swarming, that they don’t have a queen to protect, and that they’re incredibly docile. It all made sense as far as I could tell, I mean, I’m no beekeeper, but this was proof, right?
So when my wife called me outside a few months later, she was screaming, “Rob! Come outside, come quick!” I went out back and she was standing twenty feet away from the garage. “Look Rob, there’s some sort of a beehive.” And it was just like I saw on the video, there were tons of them, all clustered in the top left corner.
I said to my wife, “You want to see something cool?” and I was just going do it, like I’d run my hands through and my wife would be all scared but after a while she’d see that I wasn’t being hurt. How would she react? She’d probably start asking a bunch of half-questions, like, “But … how? This … what?” and I’d just laugh, making up some nonsense answer like, “It’s all about confidence. These bees are more afraid of you than you are of them. You need to project strong vibes, and they’ll understand that. They don’t speak English, but body language a universal means of communication.”
So I calmly walked toward the hive. “Rob? What are you doing, Rob?” to which I replied, “Babe, I’ve got it. Don’t worry.” And that whole confidence, posture, body language thing, it totally worked on my wife. She saw me chill out, she started chilling out herself. “All right, just be careful. What are you going to do?”
“Watch,” and, you know, even though I was fairly certain that this was going to go just as it did on the Internet, there was still a palpable sense of fear. I mean, even if you’re positive that something doesn’t pose a real threat, a swarm of bees is still pretty scary. I’m not even used to dealing with like one bee, but this? This was hundreds of bees. I got close and the buzzing, which I could hear from back at the house, it grew louder, deafening, I could feel it like a cloud of vibration surrounding the periphery of my being.
I raised my hand toward the swarm and I realized that I was fighting my bodily instincts. It was same feeling I had when I went to this adventure park over the summer. One of the attractions was called the Mega Jump, basically, you climb up to a really high platform, they attach you to this rope and pulley thing, and you jump off, confident that whatever it is they’ve tied you to will slow your descent before you touch ground. Again, even though I knew it was this controlled thing, I still experienced a very physical reaction, a terror really, as soon as I stepped up to the edge.
But this was all in my head, I told myself, and I knew that I couldn’t stand there hesitating for too long. I’d psych myself out, or worse, my wife might get the impression that I didn’t know what I was doing, she might get hysterical again and I’d back out if only to keep her from freaking out. I swallowed the lump down my throat and I reached into the mass.
And the stinging was immediate. I recoiled my hand instantly, it was covered in bees, they were all stinging me. The outer layer of the swarm broke off and started circling my body, my face. I wanted to swat them away, I instinctively started flailing around, hitting myself in the head, which, with my one hand still covered in bees, it was just spreading them to my head, my scalp, the ones that had already stung me and died, it was like they were glued on, and I crushed some of them against my skull.
My wife came over with a bucket of water and doused me, but it did little good. In a brief lapse in between bouts of panic and terror, I regained control of my faculties and ran toward the hose, sprayed as many of them as I could away from my body, and followed my wife who had escaped inside the house.
There were like ten or twelve bees that had made it inside, and right outside, it was just this cloud, a whole nest of angry pissed off bees looking for some revenge. My hand was bleeding, everything was starting to swell, my wife was swatting at the few intruders were still circling our heads trying to exact revenge. I looked at my ballooning hand, she looked at me, she said, “What the fuck Rob? What the fuck?”