The Bees of Kababu

First published on 15th February 2019 on

Boys will be boys. Quite an apt phrase! When I was about 11 years old, whereas my school was only thirty kilometres from my shaggz, I always looked forward to spending school holidays in the actual shaggz. My Uncle Anding’o was one of my best playmates at the time (we are the same age. He is the first son of my Grandfather’s last wife :)).

So once again the joys of school holidays had arrived and we had been up to the usual stuff: roasting maize, fishing, bathing in the river, grazing cattle and so on. All this was fun for a “town” kid like me. One of the most rewarding accomplishments was to get aluang’ni: the little flies that reside in old termite homes and produce some form of rare honey. We had locked down the science of getting to the honey pot. We would string a long stem of grass through the tiny entrance and keep pushing it in until we got to the pot. A great reward.

It must have been during one of these aluang’ni hunts that we, boys, got caught up in the fantasy of a bigger prize: real honey. One beehive would have more than 10 times the sweet nector in the tiny aluang’ni pots. The stars aligned favourably for us as two things gave us hope of translating this fantasy into reality. The first was that anding’o knew the location of an actual hive. Whats more, it was in a partially buried drum with the entrance being easily accessible at ground level. The second was that, I being the good student that I was, had just learnt quite a bit about bees from our science and agriculture lessons. We couldn’t let this opportunity pass us by.

You see, I had learnt that in order to harvest honey, farmers would pass a lot of smoke into the hives. Our teachers with their perfect knowledge had taught us that the smoke makes the bees “drunk” and hence they couldn’t sting. I suspect you can tell where I am headed with this. I got thinking and came up with a brilliant plan. We would create a situation in which all the bees would be exposed to smoke, get drunk, and hence not be able to sting. This situation was to light a fire at the mouth of the hive so that all the bees coming in and out would have to go through the smoke. With expectant hearts, we did it. It was about noon by the way. I can tell you bee stings are painful. We were stung everywhere and we were swollen on the face head, lips. Those bee sting photos are real. You can imagine how livid both my mother and grandmother were at the danger we had put ourselves.

So, as you would expect, after being on the receiving end of such an epic stingfest, we had learnt our lessons and would stay as far as possible from the most innocent of bees….not. After a few days, we assessed what could have gone wrong with our mission, why it had not worked. We devised a new plan. We considered the possibility that noon had been a bad time, and that there may have been already out of the hive. So we came up with a new plan. We would improve on time an technique. We went back at 4 or 5 pm noting that the light was less than the noon sun. Further, we figured out a way to make very thick smoke. We tried to be as flat on the ground as possible, and wore thick dark garmets. We executed our plan…bees 2 – boys 0. My mother couldn’t believe it. The stings weren’t any less painful. Bees are talented stingers.

This time we definitely learnt our lesson. We finally understood that there may have been a flaw in the smoke teaching or our implementation of it. We therefore changed our approach radically, looking for a new flaw among the bees, and guess what we found it! You see, our good teachers had taught us that bees only sting once and lose their sting. Thence, they are as impotent as a housefly in the stinging department. They had further taught us that bees easily notice white clothes. So I came up with a new and brilliant idea! Step 1. We would hang out white clothes everywhere near the hive Step 2. We would throw a stone at the hive from a safe distance then immediately dive and hide in the bushes. Step 3. The bees will see the white clothes, attack and sting them, thereby losing their stings. Step 4. Victorious boys retrieve honey. Step 5. Victorious boys eat honey. To ensure that all the bees had great vision of the “people in white,” we chose the ideal time, around midday. We forgot one thing that is not taught in schools though. Bees are not dumb! Stingfest 3.0 it was and with it, our last attempt. I cannot remember whether the school holidays were coming to an end, or we couldn’t find another weakness, or that my mother issued a maternal threat of physical adjustment. What I know is that we did not try again.

Just this month (Feb 2019) I looked back at that episode and the many lessons to learn from it. Yet what I felt most was admiration at the sheer determination and approach to problems of those boys. Make no mistake, it was extremely dangerous and it was only by a miracle of God that none of the boys, (or any of the innocent passersby who got caught up in the stingfests 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, and there were always quite a few by the way), required hospitalization. This could very easily have been the case. I have however also reformed from the time I decided to write this post and today that I have actually gotten round to doing it. Now, I am glad that the bees of Kababu won. They were just going through their normal peaceful activities when destructive little manlets, who would later plan to attend a fake men’s conference one Februrary a few decades later, came along with a plan to disrupt nature. Man has a way doing this to nature, doesn’t he?

(The bees were on my grandfathers (Babu’s) land. Kababu means Babu’s place)

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