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The Bee


The first time I drove in Ireland, I had my son as a co-pilot. He was ten at the time and was already convinced that no one could drive a car better than he could. Age limits for licensing drivers were archaic.

His job in Ireland was to keep me driving on the left hand side of the road.

For two weeks, he diligently yelled me into position on the left hand side of highways, city streets and country lanes.

“Left, Pop, left! Drive on the left!”

We visited Ireland again this summer, only this time, I had to drive without my son’s guidance. I also made the mistake of renting a car with a manual shift transmission. I was driving without a vigilant co-pilot and was driving on the left hand side of the road and shifting with my left hand.

I almost hit the rental car building on the way out of the lot.

To escape the Dublin airport I had to circumnavigate three traffic circles. The traffic circles were terrifying. I repeatedly turned right into two and three lanes of Irish guys driving straight at me. The Irish guys were really ticked off.

It took four harrowing hours to cross Ireland. I was sweating like a turkey at Thanksgiving the whole way. We arrived exhausted but intact at a quiet seaside town west of Galway.

A couple of days later I had recovered my nerve and resolved to visit a nearby town which was hosting its annual "Dog and Pony" show. The Irish have real "Dog and Pony" shows where the dogs and ponies win prizes. In this country we have dog and pony shows and send the winners to Congress.

Within a half a mile of my departure from our quiet village I had descended once again into driving hell. I was driving at 40 MPH in a 100 KPH world, hugging the left lane of a two-lane road the width of a bike path. Sheep were wandering across the road in twos and threes and a mad German in a BMW the size of a Panzer was scowling into my rear-view mirror and racing his vastly superior engine within inches of my bumper. I was sweating again.

And then, just as all of my meager driving talents were being fully taxed, a bee flew in through the open window and into my open mouth. Really.

I panicked. I spit with all my might and smacked myself in the mouth at the same time. The car swerved from shoulder to shoulder and then settled into a rut at the side of the road. The BMW blasted its horn as it careened past me. I was face to face with a great big sheep. The sheep looked at me like I was stupid. I have no idea what happened to the bee.

My vital signs returned to normal. I proceeded cautiously to the dog and pony show.

I spent the afternoon watching local Irish guys parading dogs, giant stallions and little ponies.

I snacked on cookies and pastries prepared by a local chef. I asked the chef about the marvelous flavors. He told me that he kept bee hives and used their honey to sweeten his confections. He talked about his bees like they were little friends. But his little friends were disappearing. The previous winter, he had lost more than half of his hives.

I told him I may have met one of his little friends.

The Irish chef's hive loss experience is not unique. Bees in America and Europe are disappearing at a horrific rate. Hive casualties that used to run at five percent each winter have been climbing steadily to 50 percent or more, and we aren’t sure why. Theories for the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) range from a fungus, to a mite, to a family of new insecticides called neonicotinoids.

The most popular CCD theory is that it is caused by the long-term impact of a cocktail of causes, with new insecticides being the trigger. This is terrible news for us. Bees pollinate at least 25 percent of our food and 80 percent of our wildflowers. The damage to the California almond crop alone is counted in the billions.


The only hope for our bees is to get Congress to pass new laws regulating insecticide production. The large chemical companies pay millions to lobbyists to stop these new laws. We are back to the American dog and pony show. And it doesn’t look good for our bees.

Honey has been a big deal at the Beach Bistro for a long time.

For a couple of years now we have long been the lucky recipients of a truly excellent honey produced by a local island beekeeper.

We often use the local honey or maple syrup instead of sugar as a sweetener. Adding a spoonful to a savory dish imports an intriguing nuance of wood or flowers to the flavors.

To celebrate beekeepers and our special local honey, we are featuring honey in my new favorite cocktail, a revival of a classic from the 1920s called the Bee’s Knees.

From now until December 20 you can make a grand entrance to the Bistro bar with your "honey", tell Fred or Briana that they run a "sweet little bar" and you both will get two Bee’s Knees cocktails for the price of a single.

We will also have a Twitter/Facebook site available, so you can message politicians at the big dog and pony show in Washington. Tell them that you are concerned about our bees. We can drink and bug politicians at the same time.

Maybe that kamikaze bee in Ireland was trying to deliver a message.

Sean Murphy is the owner of the Beach Bistro and the "eat here" restaurants. Comments can be directed to him at seanmurphybistro@gmail.com.


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