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The Killer Bees - A True Life Story

I was still in school, in twelfth standard sometime in 1982. We were staying in a place called Ambala Cantonment. On weekends there used to be a Hindi language movie screened on an old 20 inch TV in a small Office room by the Army unit Commanding Officer for all personnel other than Officers. The room had a couple of chairs and a dozen long wooden benches. The movie is screened only once, so I and my two brothers would force our parents to come along because without parents, the Army guard won’t let us get into the Office area.

We actually used to look forward to see the movie every weekend. My father had only one bicycle as a transport. But the Army would send their one tonner vehicle to pick up families. And there were only three families who would go for these movies because only these three had grown up children who would pester them for the 20 inch movie.

So, every weekend there would be eight kids and six parents who would watch the Hindi movie in the Army Office which had a TV. The parents sit on chairs and we used to pile up benches one on top of the other and sit high up and watch the movies. This story is not about the weekend movies, but about a killer bee hive which I used to see about 50 yards away from the road from army gate to the movie screening office. The hive was about 2 meters long and almost touched ground.

I Wanted To Extract Killer Bee Honey - A True Life Story

I have seen people extract honey from these killer bee hives on trees enroute to my school. I have stood there watching them use a small fire which is more smoke than fire and then remove the bees with their bare hands. Once exposed the thick part of the bee hive closer to the tree trunk it was hanging was full of honey. I have seen these people get almost three bucket full of honey from a single large bee hive like the one I was seeing.

Seeing them do it, I have also tried this with some small bee hives in bushes just the size of a small coconut. I have got stung by a couple of bees as well. A sting from these small bee variety is too painful for almost two to three hours and the part body where the bee stings, will swell up and you can feel the heat below your skin even without touching it.

I was once stung by a small bee in the area between my eyes and when I looked into the mirror, the swelling there made me look so ugly in addition to the severe pain. The pain subsides, but the swelling takes about two days to go. The problem was going out of the house when people start staring at my bee stung, ugly non-human face. And in school I was the center of attraction and got to learn quite a lot of new abusive words the next day.

Notwithstanding all that experience I wanted to extract honey from this super large killer bee hive. Each bee in this hive was almost an inch in length. But the lure of forest honey and that too three bucket full was something I could not take my mind off from. Imagine having honey on bread for the next few months for breakfast. My decision was final. I hardly saw the movie on the TV screen. Everyone else was enjoying the movie and the dance numbers.

But I was in a honey bee world dreaming about the three buckets of pure natural honey I am going to take home. My mother is going to be super thrilled. But I was not going to tell the secret right now. After we reached back home, my parents went on the bicycle for doing the weekly marketing. The market was about five kilometers away and they are not going to be home for the next two hours. Enough and more time for me to accomplish my job.

I Preparated To Extract Honey From Killer Bee HIve - A True Life Story

I washed the three buckets in our bathroom with soap and water. Then, I took a three foot long stick and tied up a small piece of waste cloth. I took a matchbox and started on my “Mission Honey”. At that moment of happiness and enthusiasm, I never knew that my Mission Honey is going to be a success or a failure. I thought I knew everything as I have seen people extract honey from large killer bee hives on trees and I have myself done this a couple of times on small bush bee hives.

I walked a bit cautiously so that no one who knows my father sees me and ask me what I am going for and I was sure once I tell them, they most likely will stop me from accomplishing my mission Honey before it even started. I used the jungle track instead of the road. That being the month of January, it was too cold and I was wearing a full pants and a pink sweater. I purposely did not take my gloves because with gloves on, lighting the match stick would have been difficult.

All honey Bees are naturally very calm beings. But if they find their hive is under attack or threat, they all become warriors and will sting anything, be it a wasp, a human, an animal or even an elephant. The bees have a tank full of venom at their rear part. The read end of this venom tank is shaped like spike. When the bee hive is disturbed and the bees go into the fighting mode, they select the target and fly towards it with both their head and their rear end with the venom tank spike forward.

Killer Bees Die Immediately After Stinging Victim - A True Life Story

When the bee contacts the enemy body, the venom sack spike goes into the flesh of the victim and detaches. Once the venom sack detaches from the bee, the bee actually dies off in a few hours. Probably it is of no use to the bee colony without its venom sack. It is a onetime use venom sack, which does not regrow. So the bee dies. Now even if it knows it will die after stinging its victim, these bees attack and sacrifice their own individual life, so that the rest of the hive individuals and their queen, live and thrive.

The bee's brain runs like a well written software application. Thinking is not involved in their action. I somehow managed to reach the spot bypassing the army gate through the jungle route and finally slipping through the barbed wire fence, I walked confidently towards this super large killer bee hive. I have experience of stealing honey, from small bush bee hive a couple of times. But never had any experience of doing the same from Killer bee hive. Yes I have seen it being done once and that gave me the confidence to pull it off.

I Ambushed The Killer Bee Hive - A True Life Story

As I approached the bee hive and reached about three feet from it, I realized its real size. This killer bee hive hanging from a low branch of a small stout tree growing at an angle of about 45 degrees from ground, starts almost from the ground with just about 10 cm clearance from the grass below and was about 3 meter long, about 30 cm thick and hung about 50 cm all along its length.

Instead of understand the danger I was going to be in, I was feeling sad that I have carried only three 10 liter buckets with me and this super huge killer bee hive must be having over half a quintal honey in it judging by the sheer size of the bee hive. I looked around. No one can see me from the army gate or from office. And being a Sunday, no one was on the roads either. I kept my buckets on the grass just 3 feet away from that huge killer bee hive, took out the match box and without wasting any time lighted up the cloth tied on the stick I was carrying.

I Was To Earn Half My Father's Salary in Ten Minutes Selling Killer Bee Honey - A True Life Story

I was smiling to myself. Today, I am going to make my parents proud. My first true earning. So what it is honey, it is Rupees 10 a kg. So 30 kg would mean Rupees 300. My father’s pay those days was around Rupees 600. Imagine earning half a month’s pay in just ten minutes and that too on a Sunday. I was thrilled and rearing to go. There was a problem. Being post lunch hours, there were winds and the match stick would blow out before the cloth could catch fire.

I had almost exhausted the match sticks and my patience as well. Somehow I managed to make the cloth smoke. That is when I made that big mistake. Instead of letting the cloth catch fire and burn a little to make enough smoke and fire, I took it near that killer bee hive too early to that bee hive which was two times my body size.

A Million Angry Killer Bees Attacked Me Without Warning - A True Life Story

The few million, one inch long killer bees who were kind enough to ignore me till now, despite my presence just a meter away from their hive, were now super angry. The Bee-in-Charge sent out a very small platoon of about a 100 bees with their venom spikes pointing, at me, flying at supersonic speeds. I had never seen, so I never expect this kind of rude uncivilized behavior from this seemingly calm bee hive.

The Killer Bees      

The very first sting was right in between my eyes and it was so painful, that I threw the smoking stick, tumbled over my three metallic army issued buckets, rolled over the ground in pain and tried to run in some vague direction as I was almost blind with pain and my hands trying to rub the area of sting. What I did not realize is that the remaining 99 Killer bees had also landed their venom sacks on me.

I Battled The Killer Bees For My Life - A True Life

Due to my long unruly hair on my head, my short baby beard, the thick woolen pink sweater which I was wearing, my woolen pants and shoes had nullified about 95 out of the 100 stings. Now what I did not understand is that there were one or two people on the road on which I was running. But these bees did not sting any of them. They were actually laughing away holding their stomach when I was wriggling in the bee sting pain and trying to dodge the repeated attacks of the bees who kept following me, where ever I ran.

In fact, the bees were attacking so relentlessly as if they were waiting to take revenge on me for some family feud or some regular harm, I might have been doing for years to them. Who was to tell them that this is the first ever time I tried to steal honey from them. Finally, to avoid the bee attack, I ran into the MI Room or the Army Medical Inspection room normally used for first aid. The Medical Assistant there helped me to remove all the venom bags of the killer bees.

The venom sacks were still twitching as if they were alive. I was told by the Medical Assistant that they keep doing this pumping action for about five minutes to ensure that the entire venom in the sack is injected into the victim’s blood. He removed almost all the bee stings from my face neck and hands. I stayed inside the MI Room for about half an hour.

Killer Bees Attacked Me A Second Time - A True Life Story

There were people walking outside the MI Room and there were a few killer bees also patrolling outside the doors of the MI Room. I thought by now the bees might have forgotten about me and may be flying around just like that. So mustered some courage and walked out of the MI Room. I got stung by a Killer bee even before I had walked ten steps outside the MI Room. I ran back into the MI Room once again.

I left the MI Room only after sunset ensuring that there are no bees at all flying near the MI Room which is about 200 yards away from the Killer bee hive. As I walked back home I saw people looking at me with some sort of surprised look. I could feel ripples go up and down my cheeks and forehead with each step I took. I reached home and my mother was in tears. I didn’t quite understand why she was crying.

My Face And Body Were Swollen From Killer Bees Attack - A True Life Story

I went to the bathroom to take a bath in some hot water. I looked into the bathroom mirror. I could hardly recognize myself. I face looked like an elephant face all swollen up. The area between my eyes and forehead were so badly swollen up that it looked as if I had squint eyes. The skin on my cheeks were so badly stretched by the swelling that I could see all the veins carrying blood in them. A pin prick could have burst my cheeks like a balloon.

Then my mother came there and told me not to take bath in that condition. I had already started getting fever and by mid-night I was having 104 degree Fahrenheit temperature. My mother was using some cold water on my body. I probably passed out and came back next evening after about 24 hours. I found myself in the hospital. It took four full days from the time the first Killer bee had stung me. The doctors were puzzled why my fever did not go away.

I Almost Lost My Life in Killer Bees Attack - A True Life Story

So they probably removed my dress and found that one venom bag was still attached to the inner side of my right arm of my sweater. Every time I walked and the sweater touched the main body, the venom bag would pierce my arm and put a small doze of the venom. This was going on even when I rolled on my bed. Only after they removed my sweater did they see that venom sack. I wonder what would have happened if the whole killer bee hive of a million plus bees had decided to attack me which is what the bees normally do, instead of the mere hundred bees which attacked.

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