As I came into the kitchen from the dungeon, DW asked from the dining room, “Can you come here a minute?” She was standing at one of the windows with a jar placed so that the mouth surrounded a honeybee. She was looking for suggestions as to its safe removal.
A magazine slid between the bee and the opening did the trick and it was quickly and safely outside. “How do you suppose it got in?” she asked. Before I could hazard a guess, we noticed our youngest cat playing with another one on the living room floor. We had been here before.
Not too long after we bought this place, we noticed some honeybees flying around in an unfinished dormer that runs the length of our house. After a little investigation I found a small cluster of bees in one corner by an eave, The floor board was missing in that spot, so I found a piece of insulation, brush the bees back into where I imagined they had come, and filled the hole with the fiberglass. I then went outside to see if there was a corresponding hole in our siding. There was. It was rather small, yet it was immediately clear that it was a very active hole. I went to confer with DW.
After a few minutes of conversation, she wanted to see for herself this hole, and I took her to the front window so that she might get an initial idea of the hole’s location. We pulled back the curtains to a scene we did not quite expect. Like a 1950s C (!) movie, the front yard was swarming with thousands of bees. I knew enough about bees to know that I had most likely separated the queen from the bulk of the hive with the insulation.
We had only been living here for a few weeks and knew hardly a soul. A few moths later and we would have called a beekeeper we met; yet when no such profession is listed in our phone book, Fearing who knows what beyond getting stung a zillion times should we go outside, we looked up listings for the only other folks that deal with bugs. We didn’t like it, but we didn’t know what else to do.
The exterminator came at dusk, when the bees had settled down somewhat. He drilled little holes into the eave and, determining the necessity with a stethoscope, into our siding, and poisoned the hive. A few stragglers remained for a day or two, and eventually all were dead.
We did have a name for a contractor and called him the next day, for we would have to get the hive out of our wall and attic dormer. He was a Russian emigrant whose uncle, as we came to find out too late, was a beekeeper.
When the siding was removed it was determined that the hive was no less than three years old. I called the previous owner, who, as I began to understand over the coming months, has less of a clue about country life than we did. I let him have it over the phone.
Unwilling to relive such an episode, I nonetheless returned to the attic. Nothing. As I came back downstairs, it was evident the cat had a new toy. This one was covered in a fine layer of ash. The chimney!
Of course, how that bee escaped the closed system of the chimney and wood stove leaves me dumbfounded while at the same time adding an element of urgency to the situation. I went outside to look up at the flue and cap, and sure enough, we had activity. I called our beekeeper friend.
The news was not good, or so she ventured, and a bit unsure herself, gave me the phone number for her mentor. Same thing. “I tried smoking ‘em out before and ended up with a bunch of bees in the house. The only way to get bees out of a chimney is by burning them out.”
To complicate matters, I could not remember if the flue on the right led to the wood stove or pellet stove in the basement. Fires in both took the guesswork out of the task, and it took a couple tries for some reason, but suffice it to say that this tale ended in the previous paragraph.