I remember being 6, maybe 7, and staring out the bedroom window at a tree full of foraging bees. I can't remember what type of tree it was only that it was covered with sweet flowers, grew as tall as the roof, and there were so many bees I could hear them buzzing through the window. I sneaked into my mom's closest and got her blue dressing gown-a beautiful light blue, lightweight item that I wrapped around me feeling like a princess. Or maybe a fairy, the Queen of Spring possibly? With this gown I was no longer a boring human that constantly got their name on the board at school (all I wanted was that gold star!) and had been replaced by a new baby sister. No, I was special. I was a fairy, or maybe an elf, or maybe one of those humans that gets caught up in some great adventure with the fairies and the elves. Regardless, one thing was certain: I was one with the bees and with a tiny bit of magic I'd be able to shrink to the appropriate size, catch a trusty honey bee steed, and fly off to the world I truly belonged in.
I don't remember how many times I was stung. I do remember the utter devastation of being rejected by my bee clan.
When I was 10 we moved to Oregon and in our front yard was an old apple tree. The apples weren't great, fine for eating though a bit watery, but tended to be mushy and bland in pies. The tree though, the tree was wonderful for climbing and had a special branch that was perfect for reading books and lounging around. The dropped fruit attracted yellow jackets, hornets, and bees, a type my dad called meat bees but I think were actually ground bees. They were gentle and would allow me to carry them around if I was gentle and slow. The yellow jackets even consented to a trip around the yard or two, the hornets usually took off if anyone came near. I'd spend hours in my apple tree, a mushy half-rotted apple wedge between in a branch, reading a book and talking to the bees that came to feast.
At 16 I was almost expelled for finding a half-frozen yellow jacket queen and letting her ride around on my shoulder. My Home Ec teacher actually screamed when she noticed and threatened to throw me out of the room; which would have been difficult since she wouldn't come within 20 feet of me. While I tried to explain that the queen was cold and thus not a threat the threats increased from simply being thrown out of the room to thrown out of the school. This also did nothing to increase my already single-digit coolness factor.
Once I had my own home I started thinking about getting bee hives. Nine years later and I am (finally) the proud owner of two hives, an Apprentice Beekeeper through Oregon State University (working on Journeyman level), and starting my first year of shepherding bees. Come along, lets get our hands sticky!