Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A time when no drone is safe

By Tom Walker

s if we didn’t have enough problems, what with a president who is blowing apart climate treaties, NATO, and our country, now we are the victims of a home invasion.
These home invaders didn’t come armed with guns and wearing ski masks, hoodies and gloves. They wore yellow and black body suits, wings and stingers.
Honey bees.
Our neighbor first spotted them, and called to let me know that we might have a bee problem. I went out in our backyard to check, and yes indeed, we did have a bee invasion, buzzing in and out of a hole beneath one of the mission tiles on our roof.
Now I love honey, and I love bees – in the abstract. I’ve read some great books about bees, like The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men by William Longgood and Pamela Johnson.
That dreadful autumn day in which the female worker bees gang up and drive the lazy, freeloading male drones out of the hive is a cautionary tale for any man. It’s why I’m constantly giving back rubs and opening jars for my wife. I don’t want to end up out on the doorstep, all wing-tattered and mangled, when “The Massacre of the Drones” comes, as it surely must.
But I digress. Our problem was a real bee problem, not a literary one. And for this problem, there was only one man for the job. His name, unfortunately, isn’t James Bond. It’s Robert Probst.
Our pest control guy.

obert has been keeping our home safe from spiders, cockroaches and scorpions for many years. He used to work for a big exterminating company, but then he started his own business, Premier Pest Control. He’s a big, friendly guy with what I assume is a New Jersey accent; he’s always saying, “youse” this and that. His contract also covers protection from pack rats, which has been a big problem at our house at times, and bee removal, which until now was never a problem.
But that was no problem for Robert. On Memorial Day, when most of the country was honoring our war dead by grilling hamburgers and hotdogs, Robert drove across Tucson to our house. Then he struggled into his bee-fighting suit, climbed up his ladder and did what had to be done to make our house safe from apis (bee) invaders. Superhero stuff, to be sure.
I watched from a distance until he sprayed insecticide into the hive, setting off an explosion of bees frantically attacking the man who was killing their queen and their world. Then I decided it was time to retreat into the safety of our screened back porch.
Robert used a couple different kinds of bee-killers that sound like they were invented by a diabolical genius. One of them sent a cloud of blue dust into the hive that left worker bees coated with insecticide that they tracked into the center of the hive, killing all the bees that were in there.
The bees that escaped to the outside were unable to fly because of the dust, and they littered the ground under the hive by the hundreds, like fallen “Game of Thrones” warriors.

hen he was finished, Robert told me to stay out of the backyard for the next couple of days, and he’d be back on Friday to fill up the hole that had let the bees get into our house. Sounded like a good plan to me.
But I couldn’t wait. On Tuesday, I ventured out in the backyard to see what was going on. On the eaves of our roof where the nest had been, there were no bees buzzing around, just the blackened bodies of the dead bees on the ground. Apparently the live ones had given up on that place.
They weren’t all gone, however. I looked up in one of the big trees in our backyard, and lo! There on a long abandoned honeycomb left behind by some swarm were about fifty or so remnants of the hive, drawn by pheromones, hoping for a miracle that would bring their queen, their honey, and all the rest back to them.
Sort of like the guy who sits around at 12:06 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday and tweets this message to the world: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”
Within six hours, the message had been retweeted more than 127,000 times,” according to The Washington Post, and “liked” more than 162,000 times. That’s one of Trump’s most popular tweets in months, the Post added. “By then it had become a massive Internet joke.”
I’m not sure even Robert the pest control guy could fix this problem.



Anonymous said...

I like your writing but did not like your exterminator's solution to your bee situation and respectfully request that if you are invaded again you ask your exterminator to not kill the bees but to relocate them to a safe area. If he is not able to do this I hope you will find someone who can. Bees play such an important role in our ecology. We need them all. Thank you for considering this alternative approach.

Tom Walker said...

Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, because of the beehive's location, there was no alternative approach. The hive was in our roof, and to get to it, we would have had to tear out a large section of mission tiles -- an extremely expensive solution. I know how important bees are, but we simply couldn't afford the approach you suggested.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the explanation.

Anonymous said...

I'm of the same mind as the above anonymous. I have had two experiences with beehives, one in my house and one outside of my house. The first was when the kids were little and we drove up our driveway one afternoon to find bees clustered under the eaves in what looked to be a half watermelon. Inside there were no bees but you could see them in the skylight. The kids were facinated, I was worried. For two weeks the bees did their thing and we did ours, coexisting together though I had been stung once. That as it often is with humans and with wildlife, was my fault. I stepped on one of the little guys and got what I deserved. Meanwhile the kids couldn't wait to get home after school to finger lick up honey dripping from under our roof, not once were they threatened by the bees. In what seemed like too short a time we were standing at the window watching a swarm, an incredible mass of bees say "so long" and leave. My daughter was crying , my son was trying desperately not to. We sold that house, it passed inspection, nothing but a dried up old hive but the experience was one my children and I would never have willingly passed up. The second experience was a bit more remote because the hive was hanging in a tree. Day in and day out I walked under that hive, marveling at the construction, marveling at nature and feeling so special to be a able to observe such a wonder. The hive was an eery sort of beautiful, the bees about their business and me, congratulating myself once again at my luck. One morning the hive was deserted with many dead bees on the ground and soon after the hive fell, dried and empty to the sidwalk. I mourned the loss for days. While I understand your need to do something about your invaders, I wish more time could of been given to your bees. They may have left behind a bit of a mess but each single bee is a world treasure and a wonder to behold.

Tom Walker said...

In retrospect, I agree with you. And I plan to write another post about that. Thank you for your comment, and please stay tuned.

Mary Walker Baron said...

I really appreciate this conversation. Thank you all for participating. May we have many more respectful dialogues such as this.