Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Bees

My life in appalachia - Bees

I’ve always been fascinated by bees-even though I’ve been stung enough during my life to know their stings hurt like the dickens.

The most I’ve ever been stung at once-was 6 times. I stuck my hand in a yellow jackets nest on a state bridge up the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River. Seems like it was just yesterday, though it’s been well over 20 years. I can still taste the dust of the gravel road on my tongue; see the exhausted look on my past due pregnant cousin’s lovely face; and see the sprite of a girl I’ll never forget dance along in front of us as we walked in the late evening trying to find the coolness that often comes off a rushing creek.

In my opinion-waspers hurt the worst. I think of them as being the most hateful of bees-well maybe I should save that moniker for the black hornets that swelled my lips and nose together summer before last when I accidentally torpedoed their nest with a watermelon rind.

Somehow I think of honey bees and bumble bees as being nice, even though I was stung by honey bees often as a barefoot kid. Can you see the bits of yellow pollen stuck to the bee’s legs in the photo above?

I suppose the pollination factor is why I’m fascinated by bees. An army of busy bees marching through the world with wings to make sure our vegetables, fruits, trees, flowers, weeds, and bushes are able to do their thing. An amazing glorious feat when you think about it.


p.s. Last summer one of my wild mountain girls, Chitter, found herself a pet baby bumble bee. She named it Pedro. She only kept him a day or so before letting him go. She swears she’s seen him flying in the yard this summer.

Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    July 1, 2012 at 7:05 am

    We have lots of clover in our yard and when I am walking or mowing I will go out of my way to give a honeybee or bumblebee time to fly away. All others are fair game. LOL
    I’ll bet that way Pedro flying around in the yard!!!

  • Reply
    June 12, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Waspers are a bad deal and honeybees are usually pretty easy going if you leave them along. Still, they are stinging insects so can be a drag too…See this post of mine as a reference

  • Reply
    Jose Gomez
    June 12, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I have read the note on the old sayings and proverbs from your homeland.
    In Argentina, we have a book, Martin Fierro, (it is translated into English), which has many such old because it was written in late 1800. by JoseHernandez.
    Talk about the life of the gaucho in the pampas of Argentina at that time.
    I tell you some, I would like the publish it as a small cultural contribution.
    “He that is born is useless to put belt paunchy”
    “A lean dog is never short of fleas”
    “Never believe in woman’s tears or the dog’s limp”
    “Mistrust as one-eyed donkey”
    “The longer that poor hope”
    “The fox knows for fox, but more known for old”
    “Become a friend of the judge, do not give cause for complaint, it is alwaysgood to have a post where you can scratch”
    Hug from Buenos Aires, Jose Luis.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    June 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Just like Ed, my daddy tells about my Granddaddy going down to the creek and waiting on honey bees to come drink. He would sprinkle flour on their back then watch their flight path to find bee trees in the woods. I always wished that I could have known him (he died before I was born) and tagged along. I just go down to the farmers market for my honey – not nearly as romantic. This may seem silly, but I always slow way down when I see a honey bee when I am mowing. I hate the idea of hurting one. I have thought about inventing a bee guard to go on the front of mowers to protect the little guys.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Our sister and brother-in-law keep bees in Myrtle Beach including the ones at Brookgreen Gardens, and it’s very interesting to learn about bees from them.
    (And Tipper, if Chitter’s seen bees flying through the yard, it wasn’t a Pedro, it was a Patricia ;o), cause all the Worker bees are female; the male bees (Drones) are only for mating with the Queen bee, and when their mating days are over, they’re tossed out of the nest and left to die.)
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 11, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Nobody mentioned that honey bees lose their stinger and die when they sting you. Kamikazes all! Sacrificing themselves for the Queen.
    B.Ruth-if he stings you it’s a male, if she stings you it’s a female, duh!

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    While I do appreciate the honey bee, I can’t see any good purpose for any of the other nasty stinging bugs.
    Happily I have only been stung twice, both honey bees and both because I never wore shoes if I could help it. My foot swelled up like a football and I had to be dosed with Benedryl and spent a few days half-mad with pain and itching.
    I still leave off my shoes at every opportunity, but I’m a lot more careful to look before I step!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Bill-my Daddy would stand where the bees were watering and put a little of flour on them (which they didn’t seem to mind) so he could see which way they were going.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I went back (as I often do) and
    read your blog today on ‘bees’.
    Sometimes we forget to commend you
    on your writing skills, but in the
    second paragraph, stuff like this
    is the reason I like the Blind Pig
    and the Acorn so much. It reminds
    us of where we’ve been with all
    those memories of our past and a
    hopeful look forward…Ken

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    In rsponse to Jim’s inquiry I have helped my Dad track many a wild honey bee back to their bee tree. Many of the sixty hives we had came from finding and cutting Bee Trees then hiving the bees. Once you locate the queen and get her into a hive body the rest of the bees will enter, then you go back after dark, close the entrance hole and take the hive home. Most of the trees we cut contained swarms from our original hives as we always had Italian Bees which are more productive than the larger species but they are also more agressive. You could not work our bees without full protective gear. I remember once we were taking honey off when the County Agent and a Bee Expert from NC State came by to talk to Dad. Dad advised them they needed to suit up before approaching the hives but both assured him that they had been around many hives without being stung. When they got about twenty yards away from the hives both received several stings and retreated back to their vehicle to suit up. To locate a Bee Tree simply check water sources until you see bees watering then watch them as they leave then follw their flight path back to the tree, this requires good eyesight and concentration. With my advanced age and varible tri-focals I doubt seriously that I could do it now. Sadly the Flood of 1966 took all our hives when the Little Tennessee River came up so fast we couldn’t move the hives to higher ground. I have since had a few hives but I gave them to a Brother in Law when I had the anaphlyactic reaction to a sting. I remember when Jean passed away and that is one thing which prevents me from getting more bees.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Like most mountain boys I got eat
    up with waspers, gaugeing their
    nests off old barns and houses
    lookin’ for fishbait. I agree with
    you about them hurting the worst.
    Not only did we not have many, but
    us boys went without a shirt on
    when school was out. We found this
    abandoned house and it seemed like
    there was a wast-nest between each
    rafter and one got me on top of my
    shoulder and I hit the ground. Boy
    that hurt! But we’d fill our Prince Albert baccer cans and head
    to the river. As Jim mentioned,
    trout loved ’em so much you had to
    get behind a tree to bait your

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I am also fascinated by bees, they are beautiful and so big up here in the mountains. In Florida they are much smaller, but I think meaner… So far, no bee stings for me, though I like watching them up close…I really like your picture with the pollen, I’ll have to look more closely now. We also have yellow jackets, mean little buggers…I stay away from them. And wasps, though they seem to stay away from me, thankful for that:

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    June 11, 2012 at 11:11 am

    My very first sting was from a yellow jacket. I was 8 and we had just moved from the city to the country. I was sitting in the dirt by some trees playing while the adults were moving the furniture. I let out a scream that brought everyone running – that yellow jacket must have been on the dirt ! After that, I can remember repeated stings throughout the summers because we were barefoot all summer long and always stepping on the bumblebees on the clover flowers. We’d just rub our feet over the grass and go on our merry way. I love to watch bees go about their business, wasps – don’t like them at all.

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    June 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Tipper, I can’t believe we have had this many responses and no one has yet said that wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets are not bees. Bees are an entirely different type of insect.
    Anyway, I have several interesting stories I could tell, but I was once stung about 15 times by the same bald face hornet. I was riding my motorcycle and she went up the sleeve of my flannel shirt. The guys I was riding with said they had never seen anyone stop so fast. I dismounted and rolled up my sleeve. Nothing. I fixed my sleeve, got back on my bike and took off. She started stinging me, again. I stopped again, and this time carefully rolled up my sleeve so she wouldn’t get tangled in it. She finally flew out.
    But, that wasn’t the end of it. I was standing there in a daze from being stung so many times and, instead of flying away, she hovered in a position about 18 inches from my eyes. Then she would dart at my face and go back to her position. It dawned on me to take a step back away from her and, when I did, she turned around and flew away. To this day, I understand that she was telling me, “I’ve got some more if you want it!”

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

    We used to draw our water up from a well & while drawing you were a captive–couldn’t let go under any circumstances. Anyway while drawing I was attacked by a mean hornet. It just kept dive bombing & stinging & I just had to bear it!!

  • Reply
    Sally Kennedy
    June 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Oh those summer foot stings! I remember my grandmother had a lovely, soft white clover lawn that felt so good to run through barefoot but the bees loved it too – she would apply a poultice of baking soda and water. Worked every time, plus grandma’s love of course!

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    June 11, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I don’t like any of them. I’ve heard a tale that one of the bees that looks like your picture doesn’t sting. Something about the color being different? But I’m not about to test that theory.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    June 11, 2012 at 10:45 am

    The worst. Ite for me runs equal between yellow jackets and hornets. I stay clear of both, if I can help it. ICK!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 11, 2012 at 10:30 am

    The most painful sting I have endured was when I stepped barefoot on a Japanese Hornet. I had heard they couldn’t sting, take my word for it, they most assuredly can. I was walking through my yard sans shoes when it felt like a red hot knitting needle entered my heel, needless to say I didn’t have to make a conscious decision to move my foot and there in the grass lay a mashed yellow Hornet. Several years ago my niece called me and asked me to remove a yellow jacket nest from under her deck. When I arrived I found a puppy covered in yellow jackets and stung to death. I eased around to where I could see under the deck and discovered a nest larger than a bushel tub. Amazingly her children had been playing on this deck and hadn’t been stung but if one jacket had decided to sting the ensuing swarm could have been fatal to a child and possibly an adult as there were thousands of bees in the nest. My Dad and I used to have sixty hives of Honeybees and I still respect them for their contributions but I now give them wide bearth since I had a reaction to a sting which almost smothered me. I had been stung before without reacting but didcovered that you can develop an allergy to stings. I guess my rambling message would be to urge everyone to respect bees, appreciate them for the good they do but avoid their stings as they can be fatal.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 11, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I believe that is a Carpenter bee picture….We have them around here….especially earlier in the Spring when they are looking for
    a window or piece of siding to drill a hole into for making their nest…..We had to put one to “rest” this year….He/she just kept on
    trying to chew even though we swatted and sprayed Off all around…It just wouldn’t give up until it had started a hole in the sash of the wooden window!
    The males don’t sting but the females do..sorry I can’t tell the difference between the male bee and the female bee..I’ve forgot so have to research that again…The Carpenter bee has a smooth black shiny spot..and the Bumble Bee has a fuzzy back…or abdomen!..I have some great pictures of bees I’ll share sometime..
    To me the Red Wasper is the most painful, then the yellow jacket….My son will tell you the European Hornet hurts the most and he got stung on
    the golf course right smack dab in the middle of his forehead…nearly knocked him down…they are big “boogers” about 1’1/2 . We had a big nest
    of them here one time in the porch overhang….They will fly directly at light so when you go out at night they are not like killing a ground dwelling
    yellow jacket nest….LOL
    Thanks Tipper, Loved this post….Watch those toes in flip-flops….and tender fingers in the blackberry bushes….that’s is where I got most of my
    red wasper stings….picking berries…

  • Reply
    Pam Moore
    June 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Check out The Great Sunflower Project ( It is a study of bees in North America with home gardeners collecting the data. All you have to do is plant a particular type of sunflower, and when they bloom, observe the bee activity surrounding them for 15 minutes a day.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Ed, that was a funny story.
    They warned us that we would have more insects this year due to the warm winter. I believe it! The waspers have taken over my closed-in porch. I have to be careful when my grandson comes in that door. He is allergic to stings and will end up in the hospital if he doesn’t have his Epi-pen. I used to feel sorry for my ex when he got stung so many times ‘robbing’ the bee hives. Thinking back…that was actually kinda funny.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

    They are fascinating!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I’ve been stung many times but the worst was when I was about nine years old. The county came down the dirt road we lived on and mowing the banks of the road with a sickle mower. Me and my neighbor decided we would follow them on our bikes because we were curious about that mower. We were what we thought was a safe distance behind the tractor when we rode right into a swarm of hornets after the mower hit their nest. They were all over us before we knew what was happening. I had forty something stings and my buddy had about the same. He was allergic to them so he swelled up like a balloon. His head looked like a basketball! My grandpa who chewed twist tobacco started rubbing chewed tobacco on each of my stings and yes it helped as gross as it was. Another thing he used for stings was to cut a tomato vine and rub the liquid from the vine on the sting. To this day if I see a hornet nest I give it a wide berth because I remember the pain of the stings.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 8:42 am

    well you just found one of my most biggest fear of all and that is bees and anything that can sting. i just told bob this morning, there is a mud dauber building two nests on the wall, which is my way of saying get rid of it. he is my nest remover. i know mud daubers don’t sting, but i don’t like anything that even looks like it can sting. that is a great shot of the bee above and i have never known anyone with a pet bumble bee.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Oh my, I’ve been stung by about everything over the years and I believe the yellow jackets was the worst. Felt like I was on fire. There’s nothing good to say about getting stung by any thing.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 11, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Ed, I think it’s amazing that you survived that episode without a sting.
    I’ve had my share of stings in my life but none recently. The surprising thing about a bee sting is that it can sting for a long, long time. They must have some pretty potent poison at their disposal.
    My current day bee experiences involve carpenter bees. I don’t think they sting, at least none have ever stung me. They do, however, make a mess of the wood on my house. I kill them with a badminton racket. I know that sounds funny and I’m sure it is a site to see me out swinging at the bees but it seems to work better than anything else I’ve found to combat them with.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    June 11, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Bees are very important to us, but they sure can be painful! Honeybees are dying off and there is a lot of work trying to find out the cause and corrective action. Failure to fix it will lead to disaster.
    I like Ed’s story. That is one of those lessons that only needs to be taught once! Amazing that he did not get stung.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Tipper–I reckon I’ve got at least a Ph. D. degree when it comes to expertise on bee stings. I might add that brother Don belongs to those ranks as well. We both have been stung a double passel of times over the years, with yellow jackets leading the list. There’s something about the ground at the old home place which has always made it a magnet for yellow jackets. The summer before Daddy died I think, between us, Don and I located either five or six yellow jacket nests (mostly through getting stung) in an area which wouldn’t measure a quarter of an acre.
    Mind you, as is the case with most creatures, there’s at least one good thing to be said. The larva or grubs of yellow jackets make about as good a trout bait (or fish bait in general) as you’ll find. Get yourself a fishing license (this time) and maybe you can give them a try. Getting rid of the nest is pretty easy. Mark it, wait until pitch-black dark, and pour a bit of gase or kerosene down the hole.
    As for pain, I’d put bumblebees and hornets in a tie at the top of the list. Maybe their stings hurt more because they are larger bees.
    I’ve had a couple of slightly scary reactions to bee stings (of course I guess eight yellow jacket stings will do that) and I now keep an epi-pen handy in the warm months. I had a cousin die from anaphylatic shock from a single sting and Daddy was highly allergic–those things make me cautious.
    Two final thoughts–if you want real pain from a sting, that of a cow-killer ant may be the worst. Second, I wonder if any of your readers have experience in bee tracking (following wild honeybees to locate their hive)?
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    June 11, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Yellow Jackets love my yard! Each year I plot and plan ways to outsmart them. I like to scan the yard for nests late evening. One August I was stung by several, and when I went to buy something for the stings they were all sold out. There had been numerous stings with folks rushing out to buy products. I try to keep my little corner of the world free of those miserable creatures.
    Warning for all is to buy unscented hair products in the Summer, as I once had some type of bees chase my head into the house. I can’t run that fast anymore so have to outsmart them.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    June 11, 2012 at 8:10 am

    I enjoy watching bees at work on my flowers, but when my butterfly tree blooms toward the end of July and August, it is surrounded with many. My neighbor has bee boxes, and his bees come to visit that tree big time. I am allergic to stings, so I am careful not to many anything with a stinger get me. It took two times for me to learn, however, the stingers were the what is called in my area as ‘white faced wasps.’

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    June 11, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Tipper, I wish you’d have taken your picture from the other end of the bumble bee. The males of some bumble bees (and carpenter bees, which are similar in appearance, but have slick instead of hairy abdomens) have white faces. The males don’t sting, so you’re safe catching them. Some of us boys used to catch them and offer them as gifts to girls 😉 when in elementary school.
    I’ve also caught honey bees in my bare hands with impunity. Of course if you pinch them, you’re asking for it. I’m not sure I’d want to try that nowadays, with africanized populations.
    My worst case of stings was from bumblebees. I was hunting golf balls in the woods at the old Bryson City golf course (on the right-hand side of the #4 dogleg, to be exact) when I got into a nest of them. I only got stung four times, which is less than I’ve gotten in some of many yellow jacket encounters, but they all nailed me on the back of my head and neck. I was pretty sick for a couple of days after that.
    Bumble bees are bad to chase you a long ways. In the golf course case, they ran Jimmy Ensley and me up out of the holler and all the way up to the porch of Jack Williams house (a good quarter of a mile). We didn’t bother knocking – just ran straight in the house and slammed the door behind us.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    June 11, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I love bees. And I am always looking for them to make sure they are doing their job with pollinating flowers, veggies, and fruits. I considered having bee hives, but then I read that chickens like to eat bees. I have a big flock of hens, so I decided not to raise bees. The hens get plenty to eat without eating bees!

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    June 11, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I think hornets hurt the worst, bot stung on the head by several once. I decided it would be fun to throw rocks at their nest hanging from the eves of a barn. Amonia sure will take the sting out. I was riding my bike once, with my mouth open for some reason and in flew a bumble bee, stung me on the tongue.
    Yellow Jackets are awful. I was clearing a fence row with a matick once and one stung me under the eye just as I was swinging the matick. I swatted the bee with one hand and laid open my shin with the matick at the same time. So I limped into the house holding my shin and my eye and my wife just shook her head. I can’t tell you how many times I have poured gasoline into a Yellow Jacket nest.
    Bumble bee, clover, and bear feet don’t mix either.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 11, 2012 at 7:19 am

    There is a lot of folk lore about honey bees, Tipper you might talk about that one day. Fascinating.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 11, 2012 at 6:10 am

    And yeah. We call them waspers and going back to a Vocabulary test a month or so ago, we call them jaspers, too.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 11, 2012 at 6:01 am

    There was a nest of yeller jackets in my yard one time. I found it while I was push mowing. Being the intellect I am, I decided to park the mower on top of the nest and let the blades mutilate them as they came out. Well, if anybody else has entertained that notion, I don’t recommend it. Them little hellions came out of the ground in a cloud and surrounded the mower. I retreated to a safe distance and waited and waited and waited. Then I went in and fixed myself a tall glass of ice water and went back out and waited some more. Finally the mower ran out of gas. Still the swarm! I had to wait until after dark to retrieve the mower. I don’t know if they went back to the nest but at least I couldn’t see ’em.
    Not a sting in the whole episode though. I reckon God looks after babies and Fools. I ain’t no baby!

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