In the dog days of summer, when the column-writing inspiration wanes, I like to dig into the reader mailbag.
In the prehistoric days, before technology ruled the Earth, the friendly neighborhood postal worker brought cards and letters from readers who were either tickled pink or shocked and appalled by what they read under my byline.
Today, most of the responses come by email, though I do get the occasional handwritten correspondence from folks who enjoy what they read or are certain I am going straight to hell.
I cherish them all.
Here are some recent responses from readers, lightly edited for punctuation and to remove words that can’t be printed in a family newspaper unless it’s a Manson family newspaper.
A column on bee stings this summer and developing an allergic reaction that nearly caused me to explode resulted in good bee advice I wanted to pass along.
Doug in Winston-Salem had a similar experience:
Five years ago, I too was mowing the grass, felt a sting and looked down to see a yellow jacket clinging to my white sock near my right ankle. They often burrow nests in the ground and make holes about the size of a pen. Yellow jackets can inject 10 times the venom of a typical honey bee. My ankle also swelled up a lot, though not as much as your body parts.
If you got a good look at your attacker, then never mind. But if you didn’t, might I suggest it may have been a yellow jacket.
Cary in Concord subscribed to the yellow jacket theory as well:
We have had very similar experiences. But I’m guessing, like me, you were likely the victim of the nasty, good for nothing (really, look it up), ground-dwelling yellow jacket. Many times, at my previous home, they got me while cutting the grass. The previous owners removed a lot of trees from the yard. Decaying root systems create great burrows for the nasty YJ. They don’t get you the first time you go by. That just gets them good and mad. When you come around the next time, you’re done for. And they will chase you down! Regular bees won’t do that. It got so bad that I would have to scope out the area before I started up the doom machine. Then they would just move to another part of the yard and get me again! And YES, it hurts like a you-know-what, for a good, solid week! Don’t even get me started about the ants in the pine straw bales …
Colin from parts unknown also offered some advice:
I read your article about your bee problem which sounds like you have a ground nest in your area. Look for a hole about the size of a golf ball around the area where you are getting attacked. When you locate a hole, watch and you will see a few bees coming and going if it’s the nest.
Colin suggested chemical warfare, but he did so somewhat reluctantly.
I don’t like killing any animals, but these types of bees are very aggressive as you know and can BEE very dangerous in numbers. Good luck hunting them down!
And then my good pal Kenny, who reads these musings in the Winston-Salem Journal, suggested a Zen-like approach:
Don’t fight back. Don’t even ACT like you’re going to. Because the thing that has the stinger will instinctively protect itself and you will lose. I’ve had wasps sit on the frames of my glasses (with me wearing them) and was simply amazed that I could focus on them, and in some detail. I NEVER “fight back.” I stand still and watch the small winged critter investigate, finding nothing with any “food value,” and leave. But then I always was a leetle weird.
Keep those cards and letters and emails coming. Bee safe, bee good and if you can’t bee good … you know the rest.
Scott Hollifield is editor and general manager of The McDowell News in Marion and a humor columnist. Email him at