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My Life with Tasmanian Devil Bees

Posted Thursday, June 3, 2010, at 8:09 AM

This 1963 combine was the first home of the Tasmanian Devil bees on my Tillman farm. They swarmed out of that round hole on May 31, 2004 to attack my daughter as she mowed. They have bedeviled me ever since!
Though our local bee expert, Paul Corbin, has had good luck with his friendly Italian bees, I must admit that my experience in the Tillman Outback is slightly different. I think the bees which moved onto my farm in the summer of 2000 are of an entirely different nationality. In fact, I've concluded that they must be Tasmanian Devil Bees, and I never know where they're going to show up next.

Our first contact with the Tasmanian bees was the year my daughter graduated from high school. I remember the date - May 31, 2000. I was working at the library book stand in the 100-Mile Yard Sale, when I got the call.

"Mom, I've been attacked by bees!!!" she cried. She was mowing up by the combines, when a swarm of the vicious little black bees came out and jumped her. I used the tweezers to pick stingers out of her ears. Good thing she wasn't allergic, or we'd have had to make a flying trip to the emergency room.

The attack demanded a retaliation, of course, so we launched a two-pronged response. First, I called my bug man, who came out in a little pick up. I drove up with him to the combine, where we sprayed the little beasts as best we could through the window of the truck.

When this attack didn't work, my son Matthew launched Phase II of Operation Bee Sting: He waited till dark, when the bee forces would return to the combine from their honey-gathering assignments. When they were quietly bedded down in their make-shift home, dreaming little bee dreams of honey and hives, he threw two insecticide bombs inside the combine.

Phase II worked, and we had no more trouble from the bees...until the next year. Little did I know, but the colony had moved their headquarters into the rotten tires of a 1934 John Deere B that was sitting under a tarp in the back yard. A couple of black snakes had also taken up residence in the John Deere condominium, so the area was a lively place, when I decided to have Jamie Proctor restore the tractor.

Proctor and his assistant came out with a trailer and a 4-wheeler, which they hooked up to the "B," pulling it up onto the trailer with bees, snakes, and spiders going everywhere! What a project! They even saved me some of the evidence to inspect later -- the female black snake had a cozy nest of eggs inside one of the compartments, and Proctor's assistant fell off his stool when mama popped out at him!

After the tractor was carried away, the bees remained in seclusion for a season or two, before they showed up in an even more obnoxious location. They found (or made) a hole in the soffit of my big bow window in the living room. Because the window is settling, there is a growing gap at the top -- so when my bug man sprayed inside the hole, a number of bees fell out into the house before the spray killed them. I had a lively time of it that evening. I finally turned off the lights and went to bed.

I haven't seen the bees so far this year, but I have no doubt that they'll find some other place to move in and set up housekeeping. Paul Corbin has examined them and declared them unwelcome in his car port aviary. The mean little critters seem totally unsuitable for life near man nor beast.

From the sweet, green hills of Tillman, Missouri, this is your rural reporter, Madeline, enjoying the long, hot days of summer!

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I have heard bees like a mail box so be careful next time you decide to see if the U.S.Postal service has delivered more than the mail to your location.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Thu, Jun 3, 2010, at 5:50 PM

For an excellent account of local beekeeping, see Paul Corbin's blog on the NSC website. Click on the picture of the county courthouse to reach that site.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Jun 6, 2010, at 10:14 PM

Madeline, apparently you have identified a new species of bee that only dwells in the hills of Tillman. I did an Internet search for Tasmanian Devil Bees and the only reference is this blog! There is evidently something unique about the weather and ecosystem of the hills of Tillman that makes it conducive to the TDB, while the rest of the world is inhospitable to it. What is needed is for international bee experts to swarm over the hills of Tillman to collect TDB specimins that they can poke, prod and analyze to determine what other bees they are related to. Are they a cross between bumble bees and honey bees? Is there wasp DNA mixed in for feistiness?? And of course they will have to determine what unique features of the hills of Tillman make it like an oasis in the desert for Tasmanian Devil Bees!!!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, Jun 8, 2010, at 2:11 PM

For a little while there, I was convinced that TDB's needed some kind of relationship with a old farm equipment to survive, but the last round negated that hypothesis...

-- Posted by Eliza on Tue, Jun 8, 2010, at 8:51 PM

The phrase "bees dreaming little bee dreams of honey and hives" conjured up the sweetest mental image for me! I can just see that being illustrated in a childrens book :)

-- Posted by cheers4dhs on Fri, Jun 18, 2010, at 4:24 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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