Killer Bees – A true story

“Why can’t you get the water running?” I asked.
“We need a three inch elbow,” one of the men working for me answered.
“There’s a pile of them in the supply yard.”
“The bees have got them.”

In the early 1980’s, killer bees migrating toward the US through Mexico caused great concern. They are the invasive African counterpart to European honeybees. Unlike the non-aggressive European variety these vicious insects can sting you many times. Truly man-killers by hundreds of stings. And I was in Africa, killer bees’ place of origin.

I followed the men to the supply yard where indeed killer bees had established themselves in an empty box within inches of the fitting we needed. “If you don’t disturb them, they won’t bother you,” I promised. All the men just shook their heads, no. A whole town is without water, I told myself. And so, surrounded by killer bees and moving as slowly as possible I collected the elbow and sent the men to finish the repairs. Quite possibly the clean water saved lives. Some chances are worth taking.

But the story doesn’t end there. Perhaps a surprise to you, one of the hazards of being a missionary in a remote place is acute boredom. And I was remote. One night, full of twenties-something energy and desperate for anything to do, I remembered the honey-hive. My roommate, Tom, helped dress me in leather gloves, a raincoat tied at my wrists, and a wide-brim hat covered with mosquito netting and secured tightly around my neck.

At the supply yard, Tom, parked the car where the headlights would illuminate the bees’ box and watched with the windows securely rolled up. I approached the hive and lifted the top off the box. The bees attacked with fury. A gallon or more of the little devils clung to my chest and arms each one trying to kill me. Undeterred, I scooped out a little honey. By then a few bees had managed to wriggle past the tie points. Several buzzed around under the netting and started stinging my face. Forgetting the honey I replaced the box lid and clung to the car door. “Go, Tom! Go!” I yelled. He roared away carrying me and plenty of bees. A mile away Tom stopped while I scraped off the remaining bees.

The two bee encounters illustrate a chance worth taking and a foolish risk. The difference being, one a great help to others and the other something sweet for myself.

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