PAT NEAL: A bee-utiful autumn

IF THE FEEDBACK from last week’s episode is any indication, we are having a “bee-utiful” autumn on the Olympic Peninsula. People are getting stung by bees all over the place.

By bees, we don’t mean our endangered honey bees or friendly bumble bees.

No, we are talking about wasps. Namely the black hornets and yellow jackets that are terrorizing the area about now.

The stories are remarkably similar in one regard. People are engaging in normal outdoor activities with a lack of caution and without the slightest notion that they could, at any time when they least expect it, be subjected to a highly organized system of extreme revenge — carried out by creatures whose intelligence, social order and weapons systems are able to make people run away screaming while trying to rip off their clothes to dislodge the stinging insects that have burrowed in to strike where the hide is the thinnest.

You may be picking berries, having a picnic or opening the hood of an automobile you haven’t started for a year or two.

Or you could be like me, up on a ladder painting the house when a yellow jacket nest I previously pumped five cans of bug death into comes alive and tells you they don’t like the color in a way you will never forget.

One of my more dramatic bee attacks occurred while throwing a stick in the river for the dog to fetch. She came back being chased by a swarm of hornets.

Naturally, she ran straight to her human for comfort since one of the hornets had crawled into her eye socket.

The various details of bee attacks and the related human and brute sufferings are legion.

They are as varied as the treatments people have suggested for dealing with the painful stings which include, but are not limited to, mud, meat tenderizer, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, ice and not getting stung in the first place.

Not being a doctor, I cannot give out medical advice.

That’s really too bad because I was almost a doctor except for one small detail, the fourth grade. That’s when they came out with the new math.

They said pie are square but any idiot knows pie is round.

It’s all part of the brainwash education our nation’s youth was subjected to in the dark past of our nation’s school system. But I digress.

I use a topical Benadryl solution on bee stings. It seems to work reducing pain, swelling and the infernal itch.

Fortunately, we only have a few more weeks of bee season until the demons die or hibernate, but this is the most likely time to get stung.

My favorite bee attack was far away and long ago, 50 years or more — before the recent plate tectonics uplifted the Olympic Mountains, making them so much steeper than they were in my youth.

Nowadays, even the flat sections of the wilderness trails seem longer than they used to be.

We were camping in a cave in a blizzard in the high country. You would think the hornets would hunker down in a blizzard, but you would be wrong.

We were snapping off branches to make a bough bed, something you’d never do in these days of the leave-no-trace ethic, but this was the last century.

The boughs were full of hibernating bees.

Once asleep, our body heat woke the bees up, so they crawled in our bags for a midnight surprise.

It was a bad time to lose the flashlight.

That was a painful sunrise.

I hate bees.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via

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