Saturday, May 23, 2009

headlines from the week (part 1)

This past Sunday morning, our doorbell rang at 7:00. Charlie ran to open the door before the ringing woke up our still sleeping children, and there stood one of our neighbors.

She wanted to know if we realized there was a beehive on one of our palm trees?

(Can you see it - on the far left stump?

We actually had done some yard work earlier in the week and didn't see a beehive. Curious to see what she was talking about, Charlie threw on a pair of shoes and walked down the side of our property and what he first thought was a cluster of snails at the base of a palm tree, turned out to be a hive of honey bees.

A rather HUGE hive.

Now, we've dealt with bees in the past. Or rather, wasps.

A few years ago, when Charlie and I were visiting my father in Massachusetts for the Fourth of July, he told Charlie - over dinner one night - that he had a hive in his pool house that he was hoping his son-in-law could help him knock down. My father's grand plan was that they would wait until night, when all the wasps were sleeping. And then, they'd tip toe out to the pool house and hit the nest with some high potency Wasp Killer spray. But first, they'd dress from head-to-toe in winter gear so they wouldn't get stung.

After the men got ready and were wearing snow pants and down jackets and hats and mittens and snow goggles, they walked out in to the hot and humid July night. They made their way down to the pool house while I stood on the deck above them, watching the scene unfold.

I wish I had been blogging at that point in my life, because I absolutely would have taken a picture of my husband, who was tasked with carrying the flashlight, which had been strapped to his head in the form of a headlamp. Charlie's job was to stand closest to the nest and shine his light so that my father could see where to spray.

None of this seemed very safe to me, but they were men.

And there were bugs.

And they had Wasp Killer Spray.

And it was night.

And they had just had a beer and they were feeling very confident.

And it would have taken a lot of duct tape to stop them.

As they descended to the pool area, I could hear the guys talking. "Look at 'em. There must be a thousand, sleeping peacefully. Those buggers aren't going to know what the hell hit 'em. Ready? Let's take out those bastards!!"

With that, my father started spraying. And almost immediately, I could hear my husband talking to my father, "Walter, Walter! You're getting them! But oh, oh, they're waking up! And OH! They're starting to fly out of the nest! And OH SH*T!! AHH!! They're FLYING TO THE LIGHT!!!"

(The light, which may I remind you - was strapped to my husband's head.)

I could see the headlamp go bounding across the yard, while my father stood in the pitch black pool house yelling, "Charlie! CHARLIE!! Come back! You've got the light!!"

The wrought-iron pool furniture which had been staged all around the pool house was knocked out of the way and two warmly dressed grown men were tripping and stumbling and trying their best not to fall in the pool while shouting obscenities as they tried to outrun the angry wasps that were now chasing after them. From the deck I screamed, "Charlie! Throw the lamp!! Get the light OFF your head!!"

My husband flung the headlamp and then ran over to one corner of the yard and started pulling off all of his snow gear. My father followed him and while Charlie bent down yelling that he had something stuck in his hair, my father smacked Charlie repeatedly on the top of his head to dislodge any wasps that might be trapped. The whole sight was by far one of the funniest things I had ever seen, and I was laughing so hard I almost fell off the balcony.

The next day, the men inspected their handiwork, and since the nest was saturated in Wasp Killer Spray and there were dead wasps all over the ground, they deemed that this operation had been a raging success. But, they both decided that the next time a huge nest of wasps settled on my father's property, it might be worth it to call a professional.

Hence, this past Sunday morning, Charlie and I made the unanimous decision that we weren't going to attempt knocking down this hive. And besides, if these were in fact honey bees - which we believed they were - we'd rather have them moved someplace instead of killed, if that was an option.

So we spent the next hour on the phone calling around to various bee removal specialists. We were quoted rates ranging from $150.00 to $500.00. Ultimately, we settled on the least expensive company that told us they would capture all the bees in a vacuum and move them to their honey bee farm.

Charlie and I imagined a high technology system with a low flow vacuum that would safely capture all of the bees in a system at the back of a truck. We imagined that the Bee Removal Specialist would be wearing a bee keeper suit and protective hat.

An hour later, Russ arrived on our doorstep.

Wearing short sleeves.

And carrying his altered shop vac.

He climbed on to our steep slope and surveyed the hive, which he estimated had a colony of at least 50,000 bees.


He then set about removing bees with his shop vac, which was stuffed with rags so the bees couldn't fly out, once caught. He said he would bring the bees back to his farm and release them in to big white boxes so they could reestablish the hive.

He told me that when you are afraid of bees, your body puts off a scent and the bees will sting. But if you just stay relaxed, the bees will just fly around and not bite you.

I'd heard that before. My husband hadn't.

Which is why when Charlie and I did a run a few weeks ago on a country road and we could hear what sounded like a helicopter hovering over head ... and we looked up to see a black cloud of bees swarming five feet above us ... I remained perfectly calm while my husband took off running as fast as his legs could carry him.

While the bees swarmed a short-sleeved Russ up on our hillside, he told me that he's had both of his knees replaced and one of his hips. He's suffered two massive heart attacks and just recently, he had a quadruple by-pass and a pacemaker installed.

It took Russ about an hour to remove the hive. And while I trusted his ability to remove the bees from our property, I definitely didn't trust his physical health and was prepared that at any moment, he would pitch forward and require emergency resuscitation.

And seeing as my husband was in the house with the baby, I'd probably be the one to rescue him.

Thankfully, I do know how to perform CPR.

Do you?

Since you never know when you might need it, whether at a pool or perhaps when a 79-year old bee technician shows up at your house, if you haven't yet left a comment on this post, you have until Monday.


  1. OMG. Greg could totally do that for a profession. He's got a shop vac and short sleeves. We're gonna be rich!

  2. Haha, that story was the best laugh I've had today!

  3. OMG! Thank you for the hilarious story about Charlie and your Dad! When I started reading and saw the number of bees you had I got a little queezy just thinking about it (so glad you found someone to get the bees so they would not be killed). But then reading about the 'wasp removal' made me laugh harder than I have in a very long time. Just too funny!

  4. I would have loved to see the wasp removal. I bet it was a hoot.

  5. My laughter at the wasp tale has left my kids convinced that I'm crazy.

    You've inspired me to take the next CPR class offered at the university where I work. I haven't taken a CPR class in three years and could use the refresher.

  6. Holy Cow! That's a lot of bees! I don't think I would have been able to hang around taking pictures while he was getting rid of them - you're brave!

  7. Too funny! You always have the craziest things going on! We've spent the WHOLE day sanding our deck so it can be stained. I keep hoping we do something FUN tomorrow :)BTW-you've definitely got me thinking about pool safety-thank you!


  8. Good for you not spraying the heck out of them. Ben and Jerry's keeps telling me that honey bees are endangered.

    Here is a link to a picture of my husband in what he wears to go attack any wasps nest, also after a couple beers and also at night. For some reason he always takes a tennis racket with him when he does it.

  9. Wow. The crazy things men do sometimes. That is awesome. I'm glad that you had them rescued and didn't kill them all.

  10. We had a swarm hit out garage one Sunday afternoon. They were trying to swarm into the ski gear box that had a cut-out for lifting. I saw one random bee and about a 1/2 hr. later when I went back out to go to the grocery store there were hundreds. I jumped in my car; backed it out; closed the garage to trap them and headed out to retrieve spray. When I returned home it looked like a horror movie with bees lining the garage door windows. My dh sprayed them while I held door to the house open. He didn't don any ski gear though, lol!

    Interesting --- my neighbor had a swarm the next week. She hired someone.

    Glad the bees are gone and glad the guy completed the job safely.

  11. Oh! Too bad you didn't call a beekeeper! Some of them will pay YOU (instead of the other way around!) to let them come and remove a swarming colony (the mass of bees) from your property, to put in a hive (the structure) at their place. I'm so glad you didn't kill them! Bees are this planet's "canary in a coal mine" and things aren't looking so hot these days!

    Thank you for the story of Charlie and your Dad and the wasp nest...I was laughing aloud! I love reading your blog, and I've gotten my mom hooked as well!

  12. Michelle M in TX5/24/09, 9:36 AM

    Gosh, that is a lot of bees. When we were living in San Diego, we had bees in our water meter (the one that is in the front yard covered w/a concrete cover). Luckily, someone told me that the county will come out and take them for free. Next time you have a nest, give them a call.

    Loved the story about Charlie! Too funny!

  13. Jen, that story was a riot!


  14. I was seriously wondering yesterday afternoon where bees live. I mean, I know they live in hives, but I had never seen a "natural" hive, only the man made ones. Thanks to your wonderful pictures I now have answers. :)