June 2010: To Bee or Not To Bee

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The bees in Baja. They're looking for water.
Baja California is a desert, and fresh water is very rare.

Honey Bees have never bothered me. Up north, where water is plentiful,
the bees are just looking for flowers. I always let bees buzz around me, land if they want, and as soon as they figure out that I am not a flower they go away.

Wasps, Hornets, and Yellowjackets, on the other hand, scare me.
I haven't seen any Hornets or Yellowjackets down here yet,
but there are some really *huge* and ugly wasps. When they glide through the boat, with that big half inch long thorax and stinger, and the inch long legs hanging down, I get a bit freaked out.
I don't know what wasps are looking for, but I don't think it's flowers.

The bees are aggressive when they sense moisture.
Like I said, it's a desert around here, and survival is serious business.


On June 12, 2010, while anchored in the south corner
of Caleta San Juanico (26.3N 111.4W)
I was swarmed.

It started with just a few bees.
They found traces of moisture in the shower, under the teak grate.



They found the dish pan in the galley, which was full of soapy water with a rag and sponge floating on top, which wicked the water up, leaving a nice safe landing zone, with a ready source of moisture.

I hope the soapy water gave the whole hive a good case of the sh_ts.

By the end of the day, over 100 bees drowned in that dish pan.



I tried to ignore them.
Heck, if you don't hurt me, I won't hurt you.
It's part of my personal philosophy.

Even if you *do* hurt me,
I will try and understand *why* before reacting.

I get along with everybody and everything pretty well.

But when the bees started to mess with my food it was war.

That's gravy for my mashed potatoes.
Do *not* mess with my food.



I tried to reduce the problem using a fly swatter.

Bad idea.

These desert bees are pretty tough.

A fly swatter just ticks them off.



I had a can of peaches for breakfast.

It occurred to me that the light syrup might be more attractive to the bees than the inside of my boat, so I filled the can half full of water to drown the stupid ones, and set it out on deck

Note the two bees on the rim.
There are about thirty dead ones inside the can.
I didn't realize that the label says "Eating well couldn't be easier."
Apparently, Baja bees can read English.

I poured the rest of the peach can syrup into a bowl, and set in on the fantail, to try and lure the bees out of the main cabin.

It was the dumbest idea I've ever come up with.

Within two hours, fifty bees turned into three hundred.
Apparently, they went home and told the rest of the hive that there was a great source of glucose laden water over on the boat anchored a half mile off shore.

Appeasement doesn't work.



I tried to be cool about it.

Live and let live, right? I was walking around the boat, through a cloud of bees, singing that old tune by War: "Why Can't Wee Bee Friends."

Heck, I offered them a shot of tequila.

That was yet another bad idea.

Only a few bees tasted the tequila,
but suddenly they became very aggressive and belligerent
and tried to crawl up my shorts.



Yeah, bees everywhere. There was a bit of water in the bottom of a bowl in the galley, and they drowned themselves in it.

Honestly, there were probably
three hundred bees inside my main cabin.

I tried to ignore them, and go about my business.
But, really, I spent the day on my bunk, reading a book,
letting the bees have the galley, head, and cockpit.

I learned to watch where I put my hands.

On a boat, you learn to watch where you put your feet, and you can always tell a novice sailor because he or she doesn't think about where he or she is stepping. An intermediate sailor wears shoes, which protects the feet but doesn't stop the intermediate sailor from breaking things.
A *real* sailor can go barefoot, and doesn't break toes or equipment,
because one eye is looking up, and the other eye is looking down.

I know my boat, and always trusted myself to grab without looking.
Now, I also look where I put my hands.



Fly paper didn't work. The bees are too strong. This one actually stuck, because it rolled over and got its wings stuck. Most of the rest of them fought free, and then fell to the floor.



I'd rather have them flying around than crawling around on the floor.

Eventually I stepped on one and was stung on the bottom of my foot.

That was annoying.



After about six hours I got tired of it, and filled a spray bottle with some 50/50 bleach/water mix.

I just sprayed the heck out of the shower, the galley sink, and anything else that attracted bees. I'm sure there's a better solution (maybe Boric Acid) but bleach was handy.

It killed a hundred bees, and the rest flew away.



Anyway, ever since that day I kill the first bee that buzzes my body.

I used to have sailing gloves, but never used them for sailing, just for fishing. Eventually, they were trashed.

For 60 pesos, I picked up some heavy leather work gloves. Note the modifications: I cut off the index finger and thumb so I could deal with fine work, and cut off the elastic wrist band to let the heat out and make them easier to take on and off.

I just smack the bees with these gloves, and watch them rip their guts out trying to sting through the leather.

Live and let live... whatever.


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