By Hannah Reich Berman

As soon as Rosh Hashanah draws near, something happens to the bee population on the South Shore of Long Island. It’s an annual phenomenon. Apparently, bees confer with one another about their traveling plans. Unquestionably, they have a network by which they communicate, and it is through this networking that they decide which bees should invade which sukkahs.

I can’t speak for other areas and I haven’t bothered to research the subject. It’s not that I don’t care about the other poor souls in other sukkahs in other areas, it’s just that I can’t do anything about the bees that might invade someone’s sukkah 100 miles from here. For that matter, I can’t even do much about the bees that invade the sukkah right outside my back door!

One of my biggest questions here is, why us? Why do Jews have to put up with bees in their sukkahs? What I really mean is why me? Because when one comes down to it, it is always about the individual and not the masses, unless of course one is a great humanitarian, a noble and an altruistic person, which I am not. I don’t fear bees for anyone else. My thought is that a bee sting is nothing more than a painful jab that one can survive and it is no big deal–unless I am the one who might be stung. If given a choice, I would prefer to be locked in a room with a vicious dog than to have a bee buzz around me.

True, I am much bigger than any bee, but what matters here is speed. And bees are unquestionably much faster than I am. It is highly unlikely that I could outrun a dog, either, but if I got lucky I might find a stick, a bat, or something that would frighten the dog away. I am not now nor have I ever been a dog person, but as I understand it, some dogs, presumably those who have been beaten, will run away at the sight of a rolled up newspaper. So with a dog I stand a chance. With a bee I am weaponless and on my own!

Holidays occur when they are supposed to. They are based on history and the calendar. But if ever one holiday arrived at exactly the wrong season, it is Sukkos. It is the holiday when we have to eat every meal outdoors and it inevitably coincides with the appearance of bees–honeybees, yellow jackets, or whatever one chooses to call them. On second thought, I can’t be certain that the holiday appears at the wrong time. Chances are that whenever we would celebrate Sukkos, the bees would come. Maybe they know we are the chosen people, so they too decided to choose us.

It may sound odd, but I believe that bees have one characteristic dogs have. Supposedly, dogs know when a person is fearful because they can smell the fear. Well, it sure looks as if bees also know when a person is afraid. What else could account for the fact that there might be a dozen people seated around the table in a sukkah at any given time, and there isn’t a single bee that doesn’t go after me first? They seem to sense my terror.

I have tried everything I can think of. During the week of Sukkos I do not wear perfume. Nor do I use soaps or lotions containing strong fragrances. I seem to be alone here. Many people are fearful of bees, but few others have the problem that I have. The only product I cannot give up is the one associated with my spiky hairstyle. In order to achieve that glorious effect, I use something known as spiking glue. I checked it out, and it has absolutely no fragrance. It does, however, pose a different problem. It really is a paste and, as a result, should a bee get too close to my head, it gets caught in my hair! It occurs to me that, in a pinch, should I run out of the glue-coated pads that I use to capture crickets in my basement, I can always put a dab of my spiking glue down on a cardboard and place that on the basement floor instead! Meanwhile, my momentary concern is with bees in the sukkah. I get crazed when they approach. The situation gives new meaning to that old expression about having a bee in one’s bonnet!

Unfortunately, there is always one genius in every sukkah who decides to capture a bee under an overturned cup. The one who so proudly captures the bee will focus on the cup for a while but will eventually look away. Right after that happens, someone else at the table will suddenly need a cup and will pick up that cup–and out flies the prisoner! Once the bee is free, he is angrier than ever. Most hosts and hostesses have bee traps situated all around the perimeter of the sukkah, but, as I suggested earlier, bees are smart. They don’t go for the honey or the gefilte fish or any other goody inside the traps. Instead, they head straight for the table and buzz around the unsuspecting folks who are eating the food.

As I sit here, a few days before Yom Kippur, ruminating on past sukkah experiences, I believe I will add one more prayer to my Yom Kippur davening. It will have to be in English, since I don’t know how to say it in Hebrew. After I finish the heavy-duty prayers, the ones that really matter, I will silently insert one of my own. In my humble opinion, I have been reasonably good this year, so I see no reason why Hashem won’t hear my plea. I will ask that, as a special favor, He should keep the bees in the sukkah away from me–from all of us. Slipping an extra prayer in will be tough, because Yom Kippur davening is long and I often have trouble keeping up. However, if time permits, I will do it. I might even add something about asking that nobody attempt to trap a bee under a cup!

That’s the way it is.

Have a good yom tov–and a bee-free one! v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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