The sting of the paper wasp delivered to the first knuckle of the ring finger of my right hand resulted in such startling pain that I flung the glasses I had just taken off all the way across the carport. The Clarkesville, GA insect attacked as I stood under a nest attached to the ceiling while I was trying to put on sunglasses to replace my regular bifocals. As the knuckle joint throbbed beneath ice, I reminisced about bee stings and bark scorpion stings I endured in childhood. The most painful sting I received by far was delivered by a velvet ant to the ball of my left foot. I thought I had stepped on a hot coal despite the fact that I was walking in a sandy spot beneath pines near a creek where no remnants of a fire existed. Bark scorpion stings suffered while searching for worms or crickets under logs for fishing bait, although painful, were not even as harmful as honey bee stings…at least, that was the case when I was young. After getting bitten by fire ants more than a dozen one evening as I picked up fire wood when I was in my early thirties, my reaction to insect bites or stings have been more dramatic. Is that an aging penalty or a response to insect venom accumulation over my lifetime? I really do not know.
From the 9th chapter, “Nighthawks,” of Growing Up Floridian:
There were times when the blooming clover smell was nearly too sweet. I sank into the clover and almost disappeared. If I picked a spot thickly loaded with blooms, honey bees hummed in every direction. Bees, heavily laden with collected pollen on their rear legs, occasionally landed on and walked across my face. As long as I did not move or try to swat them away, I didn’t get stung. I learned that lesson the hard way by getting strung after swatting a bee. I also got stung by stepping on a bee barefooted, but considered that a minor consequence of barefoot freedom, and the strings were not very painful when I was young. Some bees probed flowers for nectar and did not carry pollen, and those seemed less burdened and in a great hurry to probe one flower and move to the next one. I could watch those workers inches from my face until, as the evening light faded, they zoomed off to their hives.