Today I had to do battle against the bees. That’s the way I must steel myself for the task of mass specieocide. Watching those little tiny creatures struggling, kicking their six legs and antennae into the air, trying to get the poison off is heartrending to me. They are, after all, only trying to do whatever it is that yellow-jackets do. But it is a heat wave right now, and without central air we need to open windows as much as possible, and today they tried to invade people air space. I had to do something. So standing over the carnage of an Ezekielian valley of damp exoskeletons, I recalled the bees of the Bible. (May their entomological souls rest in peace.)
Bees are one of the more innovative weapons in the divine arsenal. They are used to chase people away, like God’s little army of armored stinger missiles. And as in any arms race, it is numbers that count. Hundreds of them to the one human being holding a putrid can of chemicals trying to defend home against their incursions. In the book of Judges, the one prominent female judge is Deborah. Her name translates to “bee.” She is the bane of the Canaanites. So much so that general Barak (“lightning”) refuses to go to war without her. Bees were a potent curse in ancient times as well, strong enough to drive a family from their home.
A Sumerian cylinder seal depicts what appears to be a divine scene with a killer bee goddess (not an Africanized killer bee, but a slang killer bee). One wonders what the worshippers must be thinking. Perhaps they too had watched Phase IV when they were kids! Bees could also be benevolent. Honeybees provided a rare treat before sugarcane had been discovered, and even Israel’s “promised land” flowed with milk and honey. So like most of life, bees were ambiguous. They bore all the markings of the divine: a wonderful sweet residue, nice trendy color scheme, but a painful sting that could even be fatal. Gifts of the gods are like that. So no matter how humane my temporary solution may be, I still feel like I’m taking on the gods.