BEE LIFEGUARD

From time to time I check the swimming pool to see whether any bees have fallen in.

If I find one, I scoop it out using my hand, a leaf, or — if the bee is in the middle of the pool — a broom.

And then, depending on the state of the bee — newly stranded and still raring to go, or thoroughly water-logged and just barely alive — I either leave it in a sunny spot in the backyard or I take it to the Bee ICU, which is under the heat lamp on the porch.

When my wife got the lamp installed, I thought it was the type of thing we’d never use. But now that I’m on a bee-saving jag, it comes in handy. Bees recover quickly under its warmth.

Full disclosure: I told a bit of a lie in my opening line — the part about checking the pool ‘from time to time.’ In truth, if I’m at home and awake, I’m basically a bee lifeguard. I check the pool every half hour. I rescue any insect which seems to have a fighting chance.

This is somewhat insane, I know. As my sister pointed out, I’ve come to resemble the Jonathan Franzen character who goes door-to-door trying to get neighbors to clothe their housecats in tiny vests with a bell on the front, to reduce the killing of songbirds.

My sister isn’t wrong. The bee lifeguarding triggers some OCD-ish intensity.

I suppose another way of saying all this is, yeah, we’re right in the middle of Sad Dad territory. Both kids have left for college. My dog died. And I’m in the backyard patrolling an empty pool as if 20 toddlers were jostling each other at the edge.

That said, bee lifeguarding doesn’t feel sad. For one thing, you’d be amazed how utterly dead the bees can seem upon arrival under the heat lamp — they’re not moving, they’ve lost their color, they’re kind of black and slimy looking — and then minutes later, they dry out, their color comes back, their legs start moving, the abdomen begins pulsating. (Apparently this helps them take in oxygen.) They stand up, clean off their head and legs, wait till all systems are go, and then fly off. I’m astounded, every time.

On a busy day, I’ll rescue 10 to 15 bees, on a slow day, one or two.

I should just cover the pool, to obviate the need for lifeguarding. But a) then I wouldn’t get to be the hero; and b) even though the pool is currently around 52 degrees, I do like to sit in it for a few minutes each day.

I guess regularly sitting by myself in a cold pool removes any doubt about Sad Dad status. Well, that and my Spotify playlist. But in my defense, I started sitting in cold water long before Wim Hof made it popular. It’s good for sore muscles and a cluttered mind. It puts at least a tiny dent in my espresso addiction.

The other thing about bees, they’re surprisingly relatable. When you first lift them out of the pool, they are so clearly not at their best. They aren’t on a winning streak, I guess you could say. But then you watch them battle to come back to life. It’s a struggle, you don’t have to be a scientist to see that. And not all of them survive. So there’s an element of suspense, too.

Okay, it’s probably not hugely suspenseful. But for me it is.

I spent more than an hour with one particular worker bee. After a slow start, she looked like she would be all right. She recovered enough energy and coordination to walk around. She drank a bit of the sugar water I dabbed beside her. Then she tried to fly off. For whatever reason, whether wing damage or a separate issue, she couldn’t fly. She exhausted herself trying. And then slowly the whole process went backward. I watched her … not come back to life.

I tried everything — repeated trips to the heat lamp, more sugar water. I put her in different spots around the backyard, using a leaf to transport her. But gradually her movement slowed. She started to curl up in the posture which a dead bee winds up in.

Not knowing what else to do, I thought, ‘Okay, well, at least keep her company.’

I moved her from the leaf to the palm of my hand, and the two of us just stayed together in the fading light of late afternoon.

Before she died, she reached out her long back leg and touched the base of my thumb. It took my breath away. I’m sure it was nothing, just a reflex on her part. But in the moment, it gave me a jolt. The gesture felt a bit like her saying, ‘We are connected.’

So anyway, I guess we can also add Bee Hospice to my résumé, not just Bee Lifeguard and Bee ICU Nurse.

Now dear readers, please don’t send me Amazon links for floatable pool objects to decrease bee drownings. I’ve tried them. They help a little, but don’t eliminate the problem altogether. As I said, I should just cover the pool. Or drain it and let the kid down the street use it as a skateboard park.

But then I would need to find a new cold-water spot. Besides, my wife wouldn’t go for an empty pool, due to aesthetics. Nor would she go for a stranger coming over to see how many days he could string together before breaking an arm or leg, or neck.

Anyway, if you have a swimming pool, try it sometime — rescue a bee and watch it come back to life. It will blow your mind. You don’t have to be a Sad Dad, though that does heighten the experience.

About Kit Troyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles. He worked previously as a newspaper reporter and a criminal defense attorney. For the last 15 years, he has been a stay-at-home dad. But that gig is running out. Kids will soon be moving out and moving on.
This entry was posted in ANIMALS, SPIRIT. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to BEE LIFEGUARD

  1. msjadeli says:

    Now why did you have to go and blind me with tears? There is no act of kindness that is a waste of time. Many live and those who don’t appreciate a warm end. Bless you for what you do.

  2. Sonia Keshishian says:

    Your beautiful consciousness is priceless . I am going to try that with Zabelle who loves insects can’t wait . Sharing this my amazing Kit.💚🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝

  3. Well hello there my friend! Love the post, it’s so nice to hear from you😃

  4. At long last, balance is restored in the world.

  5. Lesley Goldberg says:

    I saved a bee today -I get it.

  6. Carrie says:

    There’s seemingly no limit to the lifesaving measures you have in your repertoire!

  7. Another winner! I love the Bee stories. So are you working on Bee signs that say, “No swimming,” or Swim at your own risk!”

  8. mk says:

    All the tears. If you only knew…

    💙☀️🎶🎵

  9. Susie R says:

    OMG I thought I was the only one who did this!! I love bees and I know they know I will not hurt them! I am fishing them out of the pool and trying to save them too! xo

    • Kit Troyer says:

      Yes, it’s kind of amazing that I haven’t been stung yet. Maybe they do know we’re trying to help. Or, in the case of my super cold pool, maybe they’re just so weak and disoriented, the sting function doesn’t work.
      I prefer to think they realize we come in peace.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!
      ❤️❤️❤️

      • Susie R says:

        No I live in AZ and rescue them in the heat of summer too! They know if we are friend or foe! I am convinced! Keep up the good work! Good to know there are more of us out there!!

      • Kit Troyer says:

        I feel the same way! I feel a little less crazy knowing others go out of their way to rescue them one at a time like I do. Thanks for reading and responding!
        ❤️🐝❤️🐝

  10. Love this! Great story.

  11. jake gerhardt says:

    Your essays/blog posts always make me stop and appreciate the little things. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Keith Megna says:

    What a wonderful story Kit!

  13. John Smith says:

    I always knew you were a good human, Kit, and now your pool bees (well, most of them, anyway), know it too, on some fundamental, thumb-touching way. As much as I enjoy the image of you circling your pool in search of bees to to beefriend (sic) and resuscitate, your post pushes me to imagine what a rejuvenating heat lamp equivalent for humans might be. Where is our second chance sun bath, and how do we get it?

    I feel for you, Kit. And while I can’t directly connect to your sad dad scenario, I *can* approximate what it feels like to need a new purpose, and I’m eager to check back here for future inspiration. As a human (and former roommate) I was always a fan of your work; I’m sure others can just easily see what the buzz is all about.

    • Kit Troyer says:

      John! Thank you for these kind words. I’m happy to be back in touch. Stunning to think that was 35 years ago when the five of us landed in that dorm room. My god. Doesn’t feel that long ago.
      I’m just at the beginning of figuring out the next chapter, but hell yes, check back for updates.
      How about you? Are you still in NYC?

      • John Smith says:

        You’re most welcome, my friend! I refuse to believe your math, however. I’m sure it was at most 10 years ago…right? What great luck that we all got the same penthouse suite in Grays East.

        I’m sure you’ll expertly navigate this next chapter, and I look forward to reading all about it.

        I’m in Brooklyn remaking my own future, and marveling that this country mouse has made the city his home.

        Let’s catch up soon, off-line!

  14. Thank you for rescuing the bees! They are so precious!

  15. mitchteemley says:

    Kit, you are truly the Mother Teresa of the Anthophilan world (I looked that up–it means bees).

  16. kunstkitchen says:

    May bee a pool cover might bee a good alternative? As you mention it…seems a reasonable solution. People here keep bees in their backyard. They just have to get the consent of their neighbors. Now that might bee an alternative too?
    Bee photography has become my slight obsession. The are fascinating to bee around with. Thanks for your story.

  17. Ann Coleman says:

    Good for you for saving the bees! I’ve always hated to see insects struggling in the pool water, and tried to scoop them out. I haven’t seen any bees in the pools I’ve swam in, but that might just be a matter of location.

  18. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Hi KIt,
    Thank you for choosing to follow my blog, Bobbing Around. I hope my words will be of service to you for a long time.
    You may be aware that I always have a free book on offer to followers. Right now, it is Lifting the Gloom, and am happy to email you a free copy.
    🙂
    Bob

  19. OMG!!!! KIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE this more than I could ever say!!!! You rock so hard!!!! I just adore this whole sharing and Your beautiful heart/soul! And I have to share! I was hired by a master organic gardener I knew to help out here and there a few years ago. One afternoon we were sitting on the ground in her garden weeding. We were surrounded by bees. We both love them and were not afraid but were admiring them. She said, “You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but You can pet bees! They are actually very sweet and social!” I burst out laughing. She said, “Watch!!!” And she did it! She started petting bees as they went about her work and they let her! I was stunned and tried it myself! It’s so true. I’ve shared this with many people, but my favorite was my dear friend Bill who adores me but thinks I’m a bit wackadoodle. He immediately went outside laughing and did the same. But he takes it a step further; he holds out his finger. The bee steps onto it, and then he pets them!!! So I have absolutely no doubt that the dying bee was thanking You for being there with her. We truly , truly are All connected!!! You just gifted so much JOY! Thank You and Happy New Year to You and Yours!!!

    • Kit Troyer says:

      Wow. For real? I’m worried i would hurt them. But i will give it a try 🙂
      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your own experiences and ideas. I really appreciate it.

      • Totally! You will be gentle, I’m certain! It will blow Your mind! Reading Your wonderful post and sharing bee petting (with someone I knew would love it as much as me and friend so!) 😄 was my absolute pleasure! Cheers!!! 😃🐝😊

  20. usfman says:

    Find the queen bee quickly and save an entire swarm from losing their leader.

  21. Willow Croft says:

    That’s awesome…yay for bees!

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