Having trimmed what I could from the ground, I was up the ladder attending to the stuff growing over the porch when I noticed that a number of bees were taking an interest in me. And they looked agitated. I didn’t hear any of them saying ‘Oh, hello. How nice to see you up here. Pleasant day, isn’t it?’ They were coming out of a gap in the wooden frame where they obviously had a nest, and they were none too keen on me disturbing them.
Bees can be dangerous. Even the innocent little European honey bee – which we all love to hear in the garden every summer and which Yeats so longed for in his bee-loud glade – can kill you if you happen to be allergic to bee stings. (It happened to a neighbour of mine when I was a kid. He got stung by a bee and went into cardiac arrest.)
So how do you know whether you’re allergic to bee stings if, like me, you’ve never been stung by one? You don’t, do you? And there’s a problem of even greater consequence. Some species of bee – possibly including the innocent little European honey bee – die after they’ve released the sting, and we wouldn’t want that to happen because bees perform a useful service to the planet’s ecosystem. Most humans merely exploit and abuse it. And anyway, I would feel awful if some innocent creature died on my account. So I came down the ladder and pondered.
I considered leaving the job for a month or so, but forsythia grows quickly and there was no guarantee that the bees would have gone by then. (And in case you don’t know, forsythia is an early spring flowering plant and has to be trimmed as soon as the flowers have faded. That’s because next year’s flowers appear on the previous summer’s new growth. Ergo, it isn’t a job you can leave until the autumn. Unless you don’t want flowers, that is, which would be a bit of an odd thing not to want.)
I decided there was only one thing to do. Tell the bees that:
1. I wouldn’t be damaging their nest.
2. I was very sorry for disturbing them.
3. I would be most grateful if they would desist from stinging me (for both our sakes.)
So that’s what I did, and then I went back up the ladder and finished the job. And it worked (although pragmatists might argue that such a statement amounts to a fanciful non-sequitur. Maybe it does or maybe it doesn’t. Who cares? I didn’t get stung.)