Troy Media publisher Doug Firby and Travel editor Lisa Monforton are part of a group of Canadians who call themselves ConnecTour. Starting in May in British Columbia and ending in October in Newfoundland, they hope to make an 8,000-km bicycle journey across the country, discovering how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives and our sense of community. Watch for their reports on Troy Media. More information on the cycling tour is available at ConnecTour.ca. To help them meet their goal, click here.
You’ve seen this movie before: picture perfect day, everyone in a great mood, things going so well you want to pinch yourself.
We were having the best ride of our entire tour. With the first real tailwind since we left Kelowna more than six weeks ago, we were on track to complete 140 km in one day.
We left Russell, Man., thinking we would do well to reach Shoal Lake about 75 km away. Instead, with the help of the wind we had reached our destination by 10:30 a.m. and all agreed that Minnedosa – another 65 km down the road – was well within our reach.
Minnedosa is a beautiful little town with a large fresh-water lake, a full-service campground and Winnipeg craft beer. We were determined to get there and have some afternoon fun.
But a swarm of angry bees had other plans.
Just about 15 km from town as we flew along at 30-plus km/h on the wings of a powerful breeze, a swarm of bees madder than hornets emerged from seemingly nowhere. They were headed straight for us.
Tanya was leading the pack and encountered them first, coming at us like a fleet of enemy fighter planes.
“They started just hitting me,” Tanya said. “It was kind of like a cloud of bees and they were just whacking me.”
She decided to ride as fast as she could in the hope she would get past them.
I was right behind Tanya, and felt them begin to hit my helmet, face, arms and chest like pebbles. I put my head down and heard them bouncing off the helmet.
From behind, I heard Rick shout at Allison, who was at the back of the pack, “Keep going.”
It was too late. One of the angry bees have found Allison’s neck and let loose its stinging fury.
“I didn’t really know what was happening until a bee stung me,” said Allison. “Things were hitting my face and body but I didn’t really know what they were. It was like science fiction.”
The frenzy lasted for about a minute. As bees went past, some of them turned around to follow us. All we could do was keep moving in the hopes they would eventually get bored. Soon enough, they did.
Rick stopped to tend to Allison, got the stinger out quickly and applied some antiseptic. After we gathered our composure, we quietly carried on into town.
What set those bees off? Why were they targeting us? Was it just a random coincidence, or were they looking for something or someone to attack?
All I could think of was Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds. Rick says that in all his world travels over more than two decades, he’s never seen anything like it.
The natural world has funny ways of expressing its displeasure.
After an incident in Manitoba a year ago, a local apiarist said swarming isn’t uncommon at this time of year. It’s the time of peak nectar flow and the bees have business on their minds.
The day did end up being all we hoped it would be. Allison’s sting subsided, we got our beer, and found our way to the campground and lake.
But those bees on a mission will live on in our dreams for some time.
Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media. For interview requests, click here.
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