“Do you want some?” Dula asks, reassuring me that I won’t feel the effects from a small hit. I politely decline, not wanting to risk anything deep in the Tanzanian bush. Besides, haven’t we taken enough from the bees already?
The fifth-generation beekeeper pulls a plastic bag out of his satchel. It contains a muffin-like fungus the colour of dried cow’s dung: puffball mushrooms, which the Maasai people of Tanzania and Kenya have used for centuries to tame bees, smoking the little buzzers out of their hives and knocking them senseless. (The Anishinaabe of southern Quebec use the technique, too.) Let’s say it takes the sting out of honey harvesting.
That is why, standing behind Dula’s Tengeru home about 35 km from Arusha in northern Tanzania, I’m the only one slipping into a full bee suit. (Just in case, you know?) Dula, dispensing with any kind of protective gear, takes a puff and shakes his head vigorously in reaction to the smoke. I follow him across a field, beyond a large, tangled cactus formation. A few log hives hang from acacia trees.