The honeybee removal job was clearly going to be a tough one; one that was going to require some serious problem solving. Trinity Episcopal Church had some bees that had taken up residence over the entrance to the church. They were going and coming from the flashing just above the gutter, and by the looks of it, there were a lot of bees. I was not going to be able to reach it with a ladder – it was about 30 feet in the air, so I had a friend of mine, Glen Campbell, who is a member of the congregation, bring a hydraulic lift.
Hydraulic lifts are a great equalizer when it comes to heights. Suddenly, instead of the feeling that you are 30′ in the air, it almost feels like you are working from the ground.
The temperature was forecast to get to 93 degrees today, and I had two jobs awaiting. I got an early start, so that I could take advantage of maximum aggression on the part of the guard bees. I suited up, girded up my loins with my Mann Lake ProVent bee suit, and prepared for battle.
The lift was a new experience. I had used one before, but it always takes a minute to get used to the controls, and it always takes a full day for it to become second nature. I lit my smoker, put my tools in the lift, spread out the tarp underneath, and hopped in. A few lift miscues later, I had it figured out – which lever combination took me up, and which one extended me, and which one turned me.
The bees took notice of me, but it was not until I pried open the flashing covering their entrance that I became Public Enemy #1. At this point, they descended on me like I was an invading force. This was clearly a hot hive. But I was suited up and covered, and was wearing my gloves, and everything was
Two bees had made their way into my veil. That was cause for concern, but not a deal breaker. That kind of thing happens. Usually a couple of adjustments, and
Not just a couple of bees. I now had twenty angry girls inside my suit with me. I am not sure where they got in, but they were in, and more were coming.
Normally, I can wait them out. A few stings, and then go about the business of my work.
Twenty became thirty.
Stinging my face. Stinging my scalp. A couple of very painful stings on the throat. On my lip. Inside my nose. Walking across my eyelid.
Finally deciding that retreat was the best option, I turned and pulled a couple of levers on the lift.
Which promptly went nowhere.
OW OW DAMMIT, OW!
Right. To engage the lift, you have to push either the yellow button or the blue button, and then follow the pictures. Yellow yellow yellow yellow OW OW OW.
About halfway down, the lift stopped descending. I don’t know why, and another bee walks across the bridge of my nose, and another stings the back of my ear (OW!) while three more find my hairline.
Press yellow button, then swing right. No, left.
Down, down down.
The lift completely failed to cooperate. I was not going down any more, no matter how many times I pushed that god-forsaken yellow button. One final solution availed itself. ABANDON SHIP!
I stepped out of the basket, and swung myself down, then grabbed the bottom of the basket, before letting go and falling the last six feet to the ground.
The full might of the Episcopalian Bee Army – the mighty holy warriors of the belfry, continued to attack I ran down the street, screaming my curses to the sky OW OW OW F*** OFF!
To get some relief from the bees stinging me from inside the suit, I zipped my head free of the veil, and took a deep breath.
Too soon. The cloud of bees that had chased me a full half block all attacked my hair at once. I ripped out chunks of hair and bee with reckless abandon, running further away while I did. I dropped the stuff in my pockets – phone, keys, pocketknife, and started to pull off the rest of the suit, because at least then I would just be fighting the bees on the outside, not inside and out.
A block and a half later, I was barefoot, having shucked my shoes with my suit, and was still getting pinged occasionally by an angry bee.
As I picked up my stuff and trudged back to the truck, my suit held as a white flag of surrender, the bees of every Nicolas Cage GIF cartoon waited…
…and stung me again.
Two more trips to the truck, and I was able to lock myself in the cab of the truck with only a half dozen bees, which was a vast improvement, and settle down to the business of driving away.
I called Glen and apologized. His wife, who had witnessed the scene, had been sympathetic, and offered to go and get me some benadryl. But even she kept her distance, because there was a cloud of witnesses around me at all times. Furthermore, those witnesses were not there to praise me for my actions.
Any time a bee stings, she releases an attack pheromone as her abdomen tears away from her body, and like a dye pack marking a bank robber, she painted me with a single message.
Every subsequent bee smelled the residue, and went to work, doing exactly that. And when they attacked, they marked me again, increasing the intensity of the message.
In total, I have counted 57 bees that died in defense of their home. Fifty seven female warriors who gave their lives to repulse the invader.
After a shower (to remove the scent), Kathe treated me to a some benadryl and a cup of coffee at Waffle House, where I talked through next steps. Kathe asked me if I had been stung on my ring finger, which had previously sent me to the hospital.
“Nah,” I replied, touching my ring absently….
I tried to take the ring off, and realized I HAD been stung on my finger at some point.
Make that 58 dead bees.
Some Waffle House liquid soap later, and the ring was off of my swollen finger. Sheesh.
A half hour later, I returned to the scene of the crime, and the bees were still excited. I talked it over with Glen, who braved the handful of bees that were still VERY concerned about our presence, and we agreed to come back tomorrow, and see if access was possible from the inside of the building. The exterior is inaccessible (see image above) because they are entering through gaps in mortar, and the building is on the National Register. I am not allowed to just remove bricks to get at the bees.
Next step is either to set up a trap out, or to access the bees from inside the building (above and behind the organ pipes).
Either way, the bees won the day. They repulsed the invader and sent him home to lick his wounds, tail firmly tucked between his legs.