I was an airplane mechanic stationed at Naval Air Station Willow Grave, Penn. when I got the strangest call from my Senior Chief. I thought I’d misunderstood when he told me we had a bee situation at the hangar. Well, I rushed right down to fix the problem, and there was indeed a bee situation.
The whole side of the plane was covered in a swarm. Now, my first reaction was to get as far away as possible from that plane but the chief was having none of that. He was going to make me climb that ladder, twelve feet in the air, might I add, with no where to go should they attack. He assured me that they wouldn’t sting while they were swarming.
“Fosse, get yourself up that ladder. They’re honey bees, they aren’t going to sting you,” he said.
I grabbed a box and taped a foxtail broom to a stick and up the ladder I went, albeit, nervously. All I could think with every rung of the ladder my foot touched was I’m going to die. I finally got to the bees and started sweeping them into the box and they started buzzing all around me, but all went according to plan.
For a while, they didn’t seem interested in me at all. Then, all of a sudden, they started landing on me. Keeping calm at that point just wasn’t going to happen. I started slapping at them and they started stinging me; my arm, my face and even the top of my head.
Then they started making their way inside my clothing, stinging my legs, my chest, my back. I abandoned my task and ran for cover. I found out later that the rest of the bees migrated to the box when they started the plane’s engine. As I sat there in the sick bay, suffering from an allergic reaction to the bee stings, I wondered why they hadn’t thought to do that in the first place.
Even though the doc told me I should steer clear of bees in the future, as one more sting could prove deadly, I still thought it would be a great idea to try bee keeping. One of my shipmates had an empty hive so I got it all set up in the garden area on base. I even got me an official bee-keeping outfit to keep the bees out of my clothes.
I was excited to have fresh honey come the following year but someone got to messing with the hive and left the lid off in January. Well, it being January in Pennsylvania, I don’t need to tell you that that was the end of my bee-keeping career.