It only lasts for what seems to be two weeks, but we do have spring in southern Arizona. Not too hot, not too cold. Blue skies. Chinaberry trees bloom purple and it is joy to ride underneath the branches and inhale the scent. It’s identical to lilacs, which really aren’t suited to the desert. When those are done, the mesquite trees take their turn. Yellow puffs with a gently sweet odor cover the trees and again, it’s one of life’s pleasures to saddle up a horse and ride down a shady trail with friends and breath deeply in what surely smells like heaven.
But the flowers are not just attractive to us. We have bees. “10 hives per square mile” announced a bee removal man last summer. Thousands of bees. Millions of them. I want to know why honeybees are on the decline in the U.S. except for here. Here, the Africanized ones are thriving.
I read the stories of bee attacks in the news with a shudder. An elderly man walking a small pet dog. A homeless man out on the street. Hikers scaling a remote area and inadvertently coming too close. Kids on a school playground at recess.
And I adjust my cinch and find a rock so I can mount up a bit more easily on my horse before heading out. The trails look clear- no coyotes. No dreaded mule-drawn wagon rumbling past that strikes fear into the heart of poor Mr. M. No teens racing about on ATVs. The trails are empty except for ground squirrels, hawks and a vermillion flycatcher flitting about.
We get about 300 feet in when I notice it. Buzzing. Faint buzzing. The horse plods forward. And we are in a world of bees. The air is vibrating from the sounds of thousands of bees on dozens and dozens of mesquite trees. Bees zooming around us in their quest to reach the trees.
I keep thinking about the “10 hives per square mile”. Where are all these bees….living? The sound is so loud it reminds me of a documentary on bees. At my mother’s house. With her TV on at full volume, as ususal.
Do I continue to ride? Is it just nectar gathering or are bees dwelling on the property? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Are we in danger or are we not?
Sometimes my daughter and I ask each other, Which is worse? Scorpions, rattlesnakes or bees?
Rattlesnakes are powerfully venomous. Scorpions are pretty bad too- and they can get into the house. But bees are the worst, we think. The sheer volume of numbers. Being stung hundreds of times is something we can’t imagine. What if I trotted up too close to a hive by accident? What is the reaction of a horse to bee stings?
I’m almost feeling guilty over this. Bees are disappearing. Our food supply is at risk. And here I am, thinking, Oh God- NOT BEES. PLEASE NO BEES.
Maybe we can list them on Craigslist. Free bees. You come and pick them up.