My sister Susan was deathly allergic to bees. She swelled up terribly when she was stung, and came close to death several times. Once in the early 1960s, she was mowing the lawn and ran over a hive of ground-burrowing bees (yes, there are such things, at least in the Pacific Northwest), and they stung her all at once, and we had to put her in the bathtub and pack her in ice to keep her from swelling to death.



Our father was allergic to bees too, but not as badly as Susan was. Evidently he passed his allergy to poor Susan. None of the rest of us got the bee-allergy gene.



But I think Susan may have saved my life once.



It’s a very early childhood memory of mine. It was a nice sunny day, and she and I were sitting on the grass outside our house, playing. This is rare and memorable in itself, because she usually hated playing with me. I think we were playing school, or store, or some such thing.  Anyway, we were having a very nice time.



And suddenly she grabbed my head and shoved me face-down into the grass and held me there.



I had no idea what was going on. I thought it was part of the game, but I was also mildly irritated at her. And, at the same time, I could hear a peculiar thrilling hum over my head, louder and louder, then softer again.



It turns out that she saw a swarm of bees suddenly fly out of a nearby tree and come sailing toward us, only a few feet above the ground. She grabbed me and pushed me down to protect me, and crouched down herself to protect herself.



Bees swarm when they’re looking for a new home. They’re not especially dangerous when they’re swarming, but they generally land on the first thing they encounter. If that thing had been me at the age of five years, I would have shrieked and screamed and rolled around, and the bees would have been – hmm – alarmed.



And I probably would have been in bad shape after that.



Susan also.



But we lived past that day. Susan died in 1995, sadly, of aggressive ovarian cancer. I’m still here.



But at least the bees didn’t get us.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Bees

  1. A brave sister indeed. And curses on that cancer.

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