Friday, June 15, 2007

Bee careful!

Smack! Thud! Ouch! Dang those bees. It's not their fault, of course. Usually I see the fields and hives in time to get prepared. This time the hives were hidden around a corner.

Honey bees are plastering the fairing. Surprisingly solid little bee bodies are impacting my body. I'm just fervently hoping none get down my collar or up under my helmet's chin bar. For 16 to 20 days riders around here are vulnerable to these industrious little creatures. Most of them are splattering on the bike. What a mess. Have you ever heard the old joke about the last thing to go through a bug's mind when it hits a windshield? The delighted jokester will tell you it's the bug's rear end. Not all of the bees are flying at me, though.

I'm sure that some of the bees suddenly find a strange monster gaining upon them as they fly. It must be weird to a bee to feel itself greatly increasing its air speed as the bike pushes them along. I'm sure it's a lot like what a certain man in Paw Paw, Michigan felt recently. Did you catch that on the news?

The gist of the story is that a man is confined to a wheelchair. I can't remember if he has MS or something similar. The result is that he is strapped into a wheel chair. A big truck was waiting at a signal light. The man in the wheelchair started across the intersection at an unfortunate time. Seeing a green light, the truck driver proceeds to go. He does not see the man in the wheelchair down in front of the truck to the right. The wheelchair's handles become affixed to the front of the truck. A very surprised man finds himself being pushed along at speeds up to 50 mph for a few miles. It ends when the truck pulls into the trucking company yard. What a rush, huh? That chair must have been built quite sturdily, I'm telling you.

Anyway, back to the bees. I've been calling on more end users on the bike. Folks are getting used to it. As a matter of fact, it kind of sets me apart. It's been fun finding back roads to connect the dots, as it were. I live in a very agriculturally based area. We also happen to get a fair amount of rain. Some crops do well here. One such crop is Meadowfoam.

This low growing plant blossoms with white flowers. That's why it's called Meadowfoam. The fields look like they're covered in a sort of foam. The blooming time lasts two to three weeks. Farmers rent bee hives to pollinate the plants. Meadowfoam produces a few seeds for every flower. These seeds are crushed for their oil. This oil is a good substitute for rapeseed oil, spermwhale oil, and jojoba bean oil. Supposedly it's an exceptionally stable vegetable oil which happens to dissipate easily. This makes it ideal for cosmetic purposes. Sun screen and moisturizing lotions are a couple of its uses. When the crop is harvested the plants themselves are ground up, cooked, and mixed in as part of cattle feed.

My impression is that there are more fields of this stuff this year than ever. If I were a farmer and had to chose between renting bees and working forever with tweezers and a magnifying glass, I'd go for the bees every time. Since I'm not a farmer, but a rider, I'm not happy about the bees. Sometimes the hives are well away from the road. Most, however, are right beside the road.

When a rider spots the hives it's time to pull the jacket zipper all the way up, pull the visor down, and tuck behind the windshield. If you're riding a tourer or sport-tourer, that is. I've encountered these hives on the CBR and VFR. There's nothing to hide behind. Getting stung a few times is pretty common given the sheer number of bees.

I felt a little better when I finally got past the range of the bees. There was a house and barn at the end of the field. If you look at the back of the truck you will see it is buried up past the axles. There's a chain hanging from the front of the truck like somebody's tried to pull it out. How in the world did this happen? The rest of the ground looks fairly solid. You don't suppose this thing's been buried since Winter do you? Here's a closer look at the back of the truck.

This reminds me of some ancient and revered Oriental wisdom. It's advice about digging a hole.

"When one finds oneself in a deep hole, quit digging!"

I have had to remind myself of this once in a while.

There was a chance to wash off some of the bugs a little later on. A huge irrigation cannon was spraying over a field. I could see the road was wet but the water was pointing away from me. Just before I arrived at the wet spot, the spray head quickly spun until the water was cascading high over my head. It was like riding under a waterfall. All I can say thank goodness the water was clear. Early in the season a lot of this type of irrigation happens with watered down barn scrapings, if you know what I mean!

You just never know what you'll encounter on a ride to ( or for ) work. That's one of the things that keeps me coming back for more!

Miles and smiles,



Krysta in Milwaukee said...

After not being stung for a couple decades (literally!), last summer I got to compare stings from a bee and a wasp within about 10 days. Both happened while riding. Now I keep the jacket zipped up (wasp got _in_ and stung the back of my shoulder!) and the face shield mostly down (bee stung my temple).

FYI, wasps hurt immensely more than bees, and don't have the decency to die once they've attacked. They're nasty critters. One of the few animals I don't mind killing.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Another reason I've found scooters to be an advantage. Ok, two reasons:

First, running into the occasionsal swarm (btdt) on a scooter is safer as your lower half is completely protected by a nice legshield. If you have a small windscreen as I do you can duck behind that and the only thing really exposed are your arms.

Second, riding in the wet means that wonderful legshild blocks most of the road spray. Your lower half stays dry meaning the rider's chances of keeping more attention on the road conditions instead of how icky the rider now feels being drenched by upspray is improved. I hit a bird once, or maybe it was the other way around... ;)


Michelle said...

Oi I don't look forward to that kind of encounter. I never even knew what a bee "farm" looked like until my husband pointed some out to me the other day.

Barn scrapings water? Ewww.

irondad said...

The dang things get everywhere, don't they? Of course, it's not all their fault. Being driven into a solid object by 60 mph winds takes away some of their control!

I once had a wasp get into my jacket, under my shirt, and sting its way across my torso. About 20 stings.

By the way, I sent an e-mail to the place you work a couple of weeks ago. Take a look for it if you're in the mood. I checked out the website.

Did you become a scooter salesman? :) I can see what you mean about protection, though. A rider like you only hitting one bird?

Bee farm? I like it. Yeah, the barn floors are hosed off into a holding tank. It's mixed with a lot more water and sprayed on the fields a while before planting. Those are the times you don't even smile when you ride by!

Joe said...

I took a sting and a welt that lasted a week from a bee on my last ride. Square in the chest. I need to ride in a zippered jacket.