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Bee Movie

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I’m pretty content with most things about Florida, but one of my least favorites is that everything here seems to make me ITCH.

The dogs get poison ivy juice on their claws and later inoculate me with it.

Deep Woods OFF!® is fairly effective, but not against all mosquitos, some of which are small biplanes that leave bites the size of a dome light.

We were chased from a potential home purchase in Rotonda by a swarm of no-see-ums that pursued us into the realtor's car and continued biting us as he gunned it and roared away.

Fire ants don’t make their presence nearly obvious enough, given how intent they are on guarding their territory. You can be walking along on the grass in sandals and find them biting you before you know they’re there. Then you do the little fire-ant slappy-tappy dance, because the little buggers BURN! Up until now, I’d experienced no itchier bug bite than that of the Maine black fly—another species that gets you before you know you’re being gotten. Fire ants win that contest, pincers down.

A few days ago, the dachshund pups were nosing about on the grass, and I caught them poking at a honeybee. “No, no, girls! He bite you,” I chirped, and pulled them out of harm’s way.

This little bee was the least of our worries.

The next time we went out, didn’t they go to the self-same spot? Stubborn little tykes, I thought. This time there were a couple of honeybees crawling in the grass. Again, I pulled the dogs back, while brushing something off my neck that promptly stung me and, of course, itched like a bastard for days afterwards. My suspicions were now aroused. I looked all around the area, in the mailbox, in the staghorn fern hanging on our tree, in the grass. I didn’t see many bees, other than a few in the grass, which I steered clear of, I can tell you. I have a healthy respect for bees ever since my golden retriever and I stumbled across a ground nest years ago. His face was never quite the same, a permanent paralyzed sneer on one side. I’ve also seen "My Girl." (Spoiler alert: Macaulay Culkin is stung to death by bees.)

Later that day, I was horrified to see a notebook-sized clot of bees quietly attached to the side of Bill’s rusty green pickup truck. The only good outcome, I figured, was that it might be a good reason to get rid of that truck once and for all. A better idea was to call Hughes Exterminators, who have until now kept our property free of fleas, ticks, ants, fire ants, cockroaches, termites, and rats. My voice shook as I explained to the girl on the phone that we had a BEEproblem! “Hmm,” she said, which didn’t sound nearly helpful enough to me. “I’ll see if Ray can come by. Can he call you at this number?”

Ray called and came by at around 5:00, when it was much cooler and starting to get dark. I stood far away from the truck and pointed, trembling, at the bee clot, which hadn’t budged. The intrepid Ray didn’t even have a masked beekeeper’s suit on! He explained that the bees were now dormant and proved his point by swatting the lot of them onto the ground with his bare hand and stomping on them. He told us that, when colonies get too large, the queen kicks out a bunch of them, who then buzz off seeking a new place to set up housekeeping. These bees hadn’t settled in yet. He indicated an even larger mass of them huddled together inside the streetlight for warmth.

“They might leave on their own, but I can’t do a thing about them unless they form a cone,” he said. Though free of charge, this wasn’t thrilling news for me, having been stung once already. And Bill is slightly allergic, so a hands-off policy toward homeless bees really wouldn’t do.

The next morning, I peered up at the streetlight. They had gone off on their own! I was delighted! I took the dogs for a carefree walk.

As we crossed the lawn behind the truck, the pups began to show great interest in a large mound they’d found on the lawn. Of course they did. It was a massive squirming pile of honeybees!

We debated all day and night about what to do, consulting with locals about what they’d done in such circumstances. Did we really care enough about the endangered honeybee population to seek out a beekeeper who might take them in? Should we blast them with special bee- and hornet-icide that can shoot 20-foot streams, and then run like hell when it made them mad? Where would we run TO, exactly? Surely they would be hot on our trail, shaped into a single-minded, deadly missile like in the comics. Bill suggested taking a large paving stone and dropping it onto them, trapping them underneath to die of suffocation. I feared bees were clever enough to hold their breath, tunnel underneath, and build a vast underground colony. Plus Bill’s allergy was something to consider.

The next day, I pulled out the yellow pages and was amazed to actually find a “Beekeepers” entry. An Amish-sounding gentleman offered “Live Bee Removal, Don’t Get Stung Twice, We Don’t Leave a Mess!” I was all for live removal if it could be done, but he was apparently out removing bees somewhere or didn’t pick up the phone because the Amish don’t have phones. Earl Russell, of Russell Bee & Hornet Removal Service, “FL State Certified in Removal of African Killer Bees,” did. Earl explained that, though he was a beekeeper, he didn’t take in wild bees, lest they bring diseases into his healthy hives. Well, all right, if we must kill, that’s what we’ll do. They might be killers, after all.

For $100 it took Earl all of 30 seconds to do the deed, spraying the sleeping colony with stuff that he compared to napalm. It left behind a blackened, twitching mass of bodies, over which Earl proffered a complimentary jar of his own honey. The exchange had a kind of karmic serenity to it.

I guess a few scouts had left the colony before the massacre. That afternoon they were flying aimlessly about, but I let them be … so to speak.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Sorry to hear you had to kill your bees--I understand the whys but where I live the bees are dying off rather rapidly due to who-knows-what environmental and/or man-made issues so we try to save them in any way we can. As part of a small farming community we need them to help pollinate, among other things. Well-written blog, just sort of sad for me!
    1490 days ago
    This was so entertaining, it made me almost forget the seriousness of the topic. You have a talent for writing and I hope we'll hear more about your mysterious status post.
    1490 days ago
  • GEORGE815
    Glad everything is under control now.
    1492 days ago
    I am not a fan of most bugs either. Especially no-see-ums. No-like-um.

    We don't have a lot of fire ants here but we give the ones we do see plenty of space. We can't wear sandals here. Too many things to kill feet.

    I have a GF who was a bee keeper. We have a picture of a huge swarm of honeybees in our driveway. We don't have the African killer bees - too cold here. We don't kill honeybees as they are our best pollinators. There are people who will come out and get any hives due to the problem with colony collapse. I wish we would have a hive come and stay actually as it's great for the garden. The problem with honeybees is that they look too much like yellow jackets. Yellow jackets are the ground nest dwellers. Honey bees like to nest on wood mainly. Yellow jackets will land on you for no reason - just to sting you. Honey bees are fairly docile. The bees would have probably left in a couple of days anyway but you would have had to worry about the girls. Bees won't permanently nest on a vehicle or in a light - they probably liked them because they were warm.
    1492 days ago
  • GABY1948
    UGH, bees, no-see-ums, ANY bugs give me the creeps! I am like you and the no-see-ums are the worst...I am up all night every night that I didn't remember to spray my ankles and legs with Off. My folks lived in FLA and I had forgotten yet another reason I never want to live in FLA...that and the humidity...AND the coral snakes my dad used to get in his yard. I DO hope your problem is gone, Susie! I love reading your blogs but this one leaves me feeling "crawly and creepy".
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    1494 days ago
    Bees haven't been much of a problem for us. However, wasps and hornets have! Seems every summer we have to remove at least a couple of wasps' nests. Best done in the early morning when the temps are in the 50's and the cusses are sluggish.
    1494 days ago
  • RD03875
    UGH, I hate bees and buzzing critters, have tons of nests and whatevers in the rafters of our garage in NH.

    Looking for another house?
    1494 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Yikes!! This blog made me itch and bugs aren't that big a deal here. I only got exposed to fire ants once on vacation in Florida -I had bought a takeout lunch and thought I would eat in one of the gorgeous parks I had seen. Well no sooner then I had sat down the I was swarmed by a biting mass. And here I thought Florida wasn't bad for bugs! But I was staying in a city. I would be interested in knowing how you kept all manner of bugs at bay in your yard (especially mosquitoes)
    You sure have to bee careful!!
    1494 days ago
    Eeek I hate bees ! I was stung twice when I was young and also had one crawl on me in 6 lanes of traffic in downtown Chicago when I was a teen. My Mom couldn't pull off the road quick enough. I threw off my jacket and screamed like someone was killing me and about went into shock. Somehow i didn't get bit on that one. That is the bummer about Florida lots of bugs that bite and spiders.

    That is really strange though. I have never heard of that. You are lucky you only got one bite and the dogs didn't get bit. I hope for your sake they are gone for good! Enjoy your honey. It's good if you have allergies.
    1494 days ago
    I steer clear of bees too, once stung twice wary
    1494 days ago
  • 68ANNE
    Bees are great for visiting but terrible neighbors
    1494 days ago
  • DR1939
    I have daughter who is severely allergic to bees so we've always been vigilant.
    1494 days ago
    emoticon problem solved, I hope!

    1494 days ago
    You poor baby! I don't like bees are bugs!
    1494 days ago
    You have a way with words. I'm glad you're safe...for now.
    1494 days ago
  • SCOOTER4263
    1. Amish people don't have telephones.
    2. Move back up here - everything's delightfully DEAD! emoticon
    1494 days ago
    I hear ya! I can't think of a single insect (are bees insects?) or anything like that (in case they're not) that I like or even want to share my space with. Sometimes we get behind in spraying the yard and then the no see ums get on our back porch. I HATE no see ums!! I hate fleas. I hate spiders. I really hate stink bugs. Well, you get the idea!! Glad you got rid of your pests.
    1494 days ago
    Okay, I'm not into loving bees this year. I was stung and chased by hornets or yellow jackets. I'm not sure which but I did a nest in on my own after my exterminator came and took care of the first in ground nest.
    Then in September my contractor died of a heart attack brought on by being stung over 100 hundred times by bees that were in a tree trunk he was removing at another job.
    You are well rid of them, a little discomfort gets more serious with each event. Avoid them please!
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    1494 days ago
    You reminded me of a swarm of bees that inhabited next door's bathroom vent and when they swarmed the sky almost went black there were so many. like you we had to enlist some help to get rid of the blighters as some decided to inflict themselves on next door's red setter's ears and mouth, poor thing was in pain so much.

    You're well rid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    1494 days ago
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