Bee-less in Minnesota: A May-October Romance

 FEW YEARS AGO, and for several years running, April in Minnesota produced a glorious bursting of early spring. Whereas we often spend at least some of the cruelest month waiting in fits to catch up to other parts of the country, instead we enjoyed greening trees, warm breezes, and only the occasional insect, buzzing aloft with the leisurely grace of a dandelion seed.

To me, it's like having six to eight weeks of May, my favorite month of all in Minnesota, the short name for "Land of Two, Possibly Three, Max Four Good Months if You Hate Extreme Heat, Extremer Cold, and Bugs."

By "bugs" I mean primarily "bees." In May, a person can enjoy a picnic or an outdoor restaurant meal as if it were California or something. Every now and then a bee will drop by, almost bored, and window shop your food. If you are game—I am not—to give them a gentle swat on the bee-bum, they'll move on quite agreeably.

By June, however, most bees have received their orders from Headquarters: Torment Humans—Hold the Mercy. As the summer months progress, you'll find your arm swinging like a busy horse's tail whenever you and food rendezvous in the great outdoors. Unless you've mastered the art of Not Caring That Bees Have Been Circling My Face for the Last Hour, Waiting for Bee Traffic Controllers to Provide Landing Instructions.

Armed with these facts, please don't say to me, "Oh, that bee is harmless; it won't bother you." Bees have, twice, most definitively bothered me. There is no reason to think that bee genetics have since mutated to produce a new, non-bothering bee. Also, one has to be open to change. Mutations are not likely to occur in a species this smug about its ability to lock coordinates on potato salad.

Summer Bee Assault #1: I stop to peruse a garage sale one sunny Saturday.

As I innocently nudge through a rack of someone else's clothing, a very forward bee manages, unbeknownst to me, to creep into my sleeveless top. Shamelessly it continues on into my bra, where it decides that there isn't room enough for both of us.

Zap! Being that the female terrain located inside a bra is extremely sensitive, I cry out involuntarily. Women pull their children a little closer, but continue bargain hunting until I—having discovered my attacker—madly slap the side of my chest, then repeatedly jump up and down while simultaneously flapping my blouse in and out like I have maybe burst into flames and am trying to put myself out.

By then the place might have cleared, who knows. I am conscious only of my left female terrain yelling at me to locate a very large ice cube, pronto.

Summer Bee Assault #2: The Boyfriend and I grab lunch.

Another sunny day, warm enough to wear shorts. The Boyfriend and I settle into a booth with our souvlaki. Apparently a bee has already seated itself on my side of the booth, and insists that I promptly scootch over. It communicates this surly request by crawling onto my thigh and poking its syringe of hostility into my flesh. Does it think I'll share my souvlaki now? Does it think I won't smash it into bee-bits?? Neither, because it is too smug a species to consider consequences. Bee-bits it is.

September could vie with October for My Second Favorite Month in Minnesota. However, the September sky has been known to turn black with squadrons of kamikaze bees attacking anything that is now or ever was food, contains the scent of food on its person, or was introduced to food at a party in 1978.

Sensing that its last hurrah is nigh, the September bee's mission is to engage in frenzied food fights to the death. And as far as I'm concerned, the bees win, stingers down. I huddle indoors, trembling with bee-respect, until the first killing frost of October.

Only then is it safe to emerge with an autumn picnic basket.

Two weeks later it's winter.