A.C. Snow

Snow: On honeybees and autumn at the beach

Few professions are as varied or challenging as the ministry.

Preachers are expected to lead sinners to salvation, visit the sick, marry members, mollify malcontents, preach funerals, raise money, baptize converts and, of late, even bless bees.

Baptist minister Rev. Ray Wickham recently did that for Raleigh beekeeper Al Pleasants’ six hives of bees.

Rev. Wickham asked God to increase the bee population, which is being dangerously diminished by infestations of deadly mites.

I hope the blessing works. I can’t remember the last time I saw a honeybee.

We kept bees during my boyhood. While the rest of the family was in the fields, I was assigned to watch a particular hive believed to be ready to swarm, that is, relocate with half the hive’s population of 60,000 to 80,000 and the retiring queen.

When that happened, I frantically banged on a washtub and rang a dinner bell, hoping the noise would confuse the swarm, causing them to settle on a nearby tree limb instead of finding a new home deep in the woods or on the next farm.

My older brothers would later locate the swarm, pluck the queen from the center of the mass of bees and put her in a new gum where her loyal subjects would join her, giving us a new colony of honey makers.

The honeybee culture is extremely fascinating, although overshadowed by tragedy.

Talk about sex discrimination! Only the females work, spending their lives collecting pollen for future honey.

The males toil not, remaining at court and attending the Queen Bee, performing sexual duties when needed.

Only females have stingers. Unfortunately, their pleasure at inflicting pain on their enemies comes dearly – at the cost of their lives. One wonders if the honeybee knows that her sting will kill her, but decides, “I’m gonna stick it to him anyway!”

Speaking of the queen, she, like some human counterparts, occasionally flies off and has sex with a dozen or more males. Apparently, the experience is inspiring. She will go home and lay up to 1,500 eggs a day in spring and summer!

We don’t know if a bee colony has a resident preacher standing ready to reprimand her for her one-day orgy of indiscriminate sex.

Personal triumph

I’m guessing that the two most dominant aspirations in America are accumulating wealth and losing weight.

On our recent trip to the beach, when I walked into the office of Kevin Willis, our condo complex manager, I was struck by how much younger he looked than when I saw him several months ago.

“You notice anything different about me?” he asked.

“You’ve had a face-lift!” I guessed.

“No, man!” he said, tugging at his loose fitting trousers. “I’ve lost 35 pounds!”

He was as proud as if he had just won the Indianapolis 500 or climbed Mount Everest. And with good reason!

Beach in autumn

Autumn is the best time for beaching.

As far as the eye can see from the condo’s seventh-floor balcony, the beach was almost without human habitation.

The ocean sparkled in the sunlight like an unending carpet of diamonds. Waves caressed the shore as gently as a first-date kiss.

The resident mockingbird, having no song of her own, runs through a repertoire of arias plagiarized from dozens of other birds.

She sings as rapturously as if performing for a sellout crowd at The Met instead of to a few beach lovers reluctantly packing for home.

The beach is amazingly free of litter, reminding me of another visit years ago when The N&O was about to publish a collection of these columns.

I was walking the beach, mulling over possible book titles when I came upon the perfect title.

A sign on the beach near the village of Salter Path urged visitors to “Leave Only Footprints.” That admonition seems to have been taken seriously at Indian Beach.

We all leave footprints, not just on the sand, but, what’s more important, on the lives of those with whom we are a part. So step carefully.

Ego trip

British playwright Oscar Wilde never suffered from low self-esteem.

Arriving in the U.S. for a speaking tour, he was asked by a customs officer if he had anything to declare.

“Only my genius,” Wilde replied.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

asnow@newsobserver.com

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