Bumblebee, the Friendly Bee


The Gentle Bee

CAUTION: A bumblebee can and will sting if provoked.

Yet a bumblebee will often choose just to go on its way. Following are two stories that illustrate this fact.

The Bumblebee at the Back Door

I was about 10 years old when, on morning, I woke to the unmistakable variable hum of a bee nearby - not outside, through the protective window screen, but in the house. Fear seized my heart. I got out of bed and cautiously opened the door to my room. From there, I had a direct line of sight to our back door, which stood open. There, flying repeatedly against the top window of the outer screen door, was the biggest bumblebee I ever saw. He looked to be about the size of a Hot Wheels car. His buzz sounded frustrated and angry.

My mom, frontier gal (Jewish girl from Manhattan) that she is, rolled up a healthy section of the Sunday paper and went into stalk mode, approaching the bee with her weapon ready to strike.

Then my older sister came out of her room in her blue pajama.

"Don't kill it," she said, and explained that, at her summer job picking cherries for a local orchard, those bees were around all the time and didn't sting anyone. It seems they like cherry juice. She walked straight up to it, opened the screen door, and scooped it out the door with her hand. It flew away in a typical Z pattern.

The Bumblebee and the Kitten

I was sitting with my dad in our back yard. I think he was having a Hamms Beer and listening to the Minnesota Twins game on his portable radio. At our feet, a bumblebee was methodically working the clover, tiny white flower by tiny white flower bending under his weight in turn.

A kitten emerged from the shed, saw the bee, and lashing its tail, went into full pre-pounce mode.

"Uh-oh," I said. "That kitten is going to get stung."

"We'll see," said dad.

The kitten stalked the bumblebee carefully, then pounced from a distance of about a foot, pinning the bee beneath its front paws.

"Bz", said the bee. "Bz.... bz ...........bz...." as it muscled its way from beneath the kitten's paws and then simply flew away.

On the Other Hand

Bumblebees seemed to love to sting my little sister. One summer she got stung five times. The fifth time she broke out in red blotches and got a fever. Bee venom is nothing to trifle with. It is a serious poison that can give you a strong allergic reaction.

One thing I will say is that bumblebees seem to react aggressively to fear. My older sister was totally unafraid of bumblebees. My younger sister was petrified of them. If you are faced with handling a bumblebee, do it calmly and without fear and you may be spared its sting.

This theory, of course, is entirely based on anecdotal evidence and is not scientific at all.


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Comments 26 comments

goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 7 years ago from Free and running....

I leave them bees alone. As a kid though I wasn't so nice as I would look for a good nest to stir up and cause havoc with.

Happy Father's Day Tom.

Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Bumble bees are gorgeous! With a capital G. I love them. I love to watch them, all kinds of bees really. Love the story here, Tom. Nice write! Good to see you have "The Secret Life of Bees" up there. The book was fantastic. Have yet to see the movie (what's my problem there?)

Happy Father's Day.

Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

I've got a bee story of a diff kind - the hornet kind.. I love to watch bumblebees, they seem so happy and just want to mind their own business..not like wasps and hornets. Very unfriendly. thanks Tom!

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Happy Father's Day, Mr. Golden!

I like the look of Bumblebees too, Frieda! Not that that is any kind of validation of your sanity...

Ya, Candie, I used to work in the woods, where I learned that wasps can sting multiple times and it doesn't kill them, either. They just fly away. I like bumblebees much better.

feeweewv profile image

feeweewv 7 years ago from Between A Dream And Reality

Calmly, without fear, hmmm..... I'm not afraid of bumble bees.... been stung more times than I can count. Maybe it's just the type of bumble bees I pick to hold close are the aggressive, heartless, insensitive ones. sigh. Thanks for the hub... I enjoyed it :)

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Bees do sense fear.  And they seem kind of irritable.  I don't think they are very happy creatures and take it out on us on occasion.  I try to stay out of their way as best I can.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

My impression of the holding of bumblebees, Feicia, is that it must be a very momentary thing that can be perceived by the bee as conducive to the bee's own goals. :)

I think, for the most part, Bees just don't want to be bothered, James, but the staying out of the way is a good idea.

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nazishnasim 7 years ago

Today when I was sauntering the lawns at work I think a bumblebee went up my trousers; something bit and it hurt!

I am still sour! :/.

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\Brenda Scully 7 years ago

Nice hub, I dont really like these things they stalk me..... then sting

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

For bee stings, use a paste of baking soda and water to draw out the venom, Nazishnasim.

Stalk and sting is more of a yellow jacket tactic than a bumble bee tactic, I think, Brenda.

feeweewv profile image

feeweewv 7 years ago from Between A Dream And Reality

I am going to ponder that thought for a while Tom.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I think my work is done here, Felicia. :0)

feeweewv profile image

feeweewv 7 years ago from Between A Dream And Reality

I thought your work was never done... You are one of the smartest people I know. I like to hear your perspective on things.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

What a nice thing to say! Thank you, Felicia.

feeweewv profile image

feeweewv 7 years ago from Between A Dream And Reality

That's me.... Nice :)

The Modern Hippie profile image

The Modern Hippie 7 years ago from Brittain

Some one else must have realised this too because I was told as a small child that bumble bees are the least likely to sting. And I enjoyed many a summer day in my youth following bumble bees about the garden and when they'd stop at a flower I would stroke their fluffy backs. The bee itself would then just carry on it's way. And too this very day I have never swatted, been stung nor had a fear of the bumble bee.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Fascinating the differences in people's experiences, isn't it? I would say there is probably little individuality expressed in bumble bee behavior, yet see the different perceptions!

pylos26 profile image

pylos26 7 years ago from America

One characteristic of bumblebees that has not been mentioned is the fact that the bee with the "square white patch" on it's foreheaf cannot and willnot sting...i used to catch the whitefaced ones buzzing around the barn, tie a string around their leg and have fun flying them around. Good story Tom...pylos26...

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 7 years ago

Bees are nice to look at but I keep my distance. I had an episode a couple of summers ago. I was out cutting my lawn when I spotted a huge hole, and I thought, oh my, wonder if it's a groundhog's home, or perhaps a snake. I turned to go past it, when all of a sudden I was attacked. It was either a hornet or wasp nest, and they came out in full force. It seems I disturbed their home. They chased me, and attacked me all the way to my door. By the time I got to my door I couldn't breathe. I feared I'd pass out without being able to get help. All the while, I'm being stung everywhere, arms, body, legs, head. I got to my phone and called 911. The police, firetruck, medics all showed up. A cop asked me was I allergic, and I said I have no idea. So he went to my freezer, got a bunch of ice, put it in a cloth and said put this on where it hurts the most. I was freaking out. I could barely breathe and I kept brushing at my hair saying they're still on me. He assured me there were none on me, and to try to calm down and take deep breaths. These guys stayed with me for a good half hour, and asked did I want to go to the hospital. By that time, my breathing had regulated, and the cop said, well, you're not allergic, if you were, it would have happened by now.

I have never cut my grass again. Either I pay someone or my daughter does it.

I pray never to experience that again.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

What an awful experience!

Wasps, yellowjackets and hornets are nothing to trifle with. Bee venom is poison.

When I worked in the woods, I got stung by a yellowjacket or two at least once every other week. It seems we were always dropping a tree on a bee's nest.

When our family was hiking in the mountains in New Hampshire, a dog who was with a couple ahead of us walked through a yellowjacket nest. We walked into an angry swarm. My youngest daughter, then around 9 yrs. old I think, got stung seven times. Luckily we met Forest Rangers on the way out who had Bendadryl. She got dizzy and threw up. My older daughter and I took turns carrying her out of the forest. We took her to the nearest hospital some twenty miles away where they gave her a steroid. She had bouts of fever and chills for days after. For years after she was desperately afraid of bees.

A couple of years later a paper wasp nest fell out of a tree by our parking lot. There was nobody home, so I put it in a bag for her to take to school for show and tell.

I'd be the first to agree that bee stings are definitely to be avoided.

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 7 years ago

Oh boy! So you've had your share of bad experiences as well. Nasty little critters! It's no wonder I prefer to stay indoors.

In my old home, I had carpenter bees, and I was stung once by one of those. It hurt really bad so I called the ER to see what I should do. I was told keep an eye on it and if it didn't swell, just put ice on it. Thankfully, that's all it took.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

For bee sting I recommend a paste of baking soda and water applied directly to the sting. It draws out the poison. If one has an allergic reaction, Benadryl should be followed by a trip to the emergency room. As I said, bee venom is no joke.

There are different kinds of bees with different levels of agressiveness. I am happy that this article has resulted in such great discussion.

Deborah Eklund 21 months ago

I am a photographer Today I had a wonderful time taking flower photos. Busy Bumble Bees everywhere. They didn't seem to mind me puttering around the flowers taking photos of them as well. They are a beautiful pleasure to watch. I grew up around yellow jackets all my life and wasp's. Been stung many times. But Bumblebees swarmed gracefully all over our yard and Flowers and I never got stung. I heard if they co habitat around you they know you're scent and won't sting you. Anyway wish I could post a photo. It was a pleasurable day watching them.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 21 months ago from United States Author

Thank you Deborah! I enjoy watching bumblebees too. Thanks very much for sharing.

Ariana 19 months ago

I've always had wonderful experiences with those fat and fluffy balls of adorableness. Even as a child, I was never scared of bumblebees. I didn't even know that they weren't big stingers, I just never felt as threatened by them.

Best experience by far was when I was staying with my aunt a few years ago, and she had all these beautiful plants that attracted all sorts of flying creatures. Bumblebees-aplenty. I would be out there, having a smoke and they would just buzz around me, both of us minding our own. Then, one week I noticed a small wasp nest starting to build dangerously close to where I sat and watched the bees.

Around the same time, I noticed that the wasps would (maybe hornets? I can't remember..they are equally terrifying) keep a safe distance when the bumbles were around. I could be wrong- maybe they just didn't like the smell of my cigarettes, but I like to fancy the fact that maybe the bumble bees were standing guard.

Anyway, one day I was watering the plants and didn't see one of my bumble buddies hanging out on a flower. Poor guy got a generous dousing of cold water. I found him crawling around on the blacktop, looking pitiful and I felt HORRIBLE! There he had been, gathering his pollen and protecting me from the invasion of hornet/wasps, and I show my appreciation through drowning!

I scooped him up and held him in the palm of my hand, apologizing over and over while we sunbathed. He never once made an attempt to hurt me or even show an ounce of contempt. Surely I had inconvenienced him, but he never made a fuss. Just sat there with me, shaking off the water on his wings and fuzzies. And luckily he was able to fly after a bit.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 19 months ago from United States Author

I think that is the best bumblebee story ever. Thanks, Ariana. :)

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