Monday, August 24, 2009

Attack of the Killer Bees!

When I noticed several sweat bees humming around while grilling a week ago, I thought it slightly unusual since I normally don't see them in great concentrations. So while grilling on the lower back deck, I glanced around and saw where they were building the beginning of their hive on the side of a light fixture. I made a mental note to scrape it off this fall when it got colder and went about my life. Flash forward a week when I woke up to find Mrs. Abbey swatting sweat bees inside the house where they seemed to be congregating on the living room window. I knew at that point we had a problem but still didn't connect the dots.

I looked around for entrance holes or cracks but in the living room, the only perforations were where the two ceilings mount to the ceiling. I could see a crack where they didn't mount up flush with the ceiling but after spending quite a bit of time staring at them, I never saw a bee enter or leave. Where were they coming from? After we got the hundred or so flying around dispatched to those heavenly fields of sweat in the sky, we took a break and went to the farmer's market. When we got back home shortly before noon, there were another 50 or so flying by the living room window facing the street side of the house.

I was again grilling lunch and pondering how the sweat bees inside the house could be obtaining entry when I remembered the sweat bees on the outside of the house from last week. I looked up at the light fixture and though there wasn't anymore structure built on the side of the light, there was considerable more activity and worse yet, I saw them disappearing behind the light fixture. I immediately decided to remedy the situation by getting a roll of duct tape and putting some tape over their entrance. Since it was a nice day and I hoped most were out and about, this would keep them from getting back in until I had a chance to seal it with some caulking but I didn't want to do that until it was dark and cooler and they had ceased activity.

Next I went inside to ponder the kitchen wall and the overhead cupboards that were on the other side of the light. That is when I saw it. Along a small crack where one of the overhead cupboards meets the wall, another small wax like structure and worse, sweat bees were now tumbling out of it. I unstrung another length of duct tape and quickly sealed up the entrance. I was puzzled. The only way I could explain it was that the previous owners who had hung the cabinets had covered over a hole in the drywall in the same stud cavity as the light fixture on the outside of the house.

Later that evening, I armed myself with some flying insect repellant spray that was supposed to temporarily disable the sweat bees and my caulking gun. I aimed with spray and hit the cluster now on the outside of the light and immediately they dropped down. I quickly began caulking the perimeter of the light only to have sweat bees pouring out of the whole joined alongside with those disabled ones on the deck who had only been very minutely disabled and were now very pissed. The spray seemed to only faze them for perhaps two seconds or less. So with one hand spraying bug spray this way and that, one hand alternately squeezing caulk out of the tub and resting it on the nearby grill to smooth it with the other, I waged war with those sweat bees for perhaps ten minutes until I was finally able to seal the exit, get the remnants of their structure scraped off and smooth the caulking so it didn't look so bad. I took one shot to the arm, which immediately turned angry red and throbbing, but felt that I was able to do it relatively unscathed.

Back inside, I pondered the taped up crack next to the overhead cupboard. I had taped the entrance over the top of wallpaper that I knew would peel with the duct tape. The walls are not straight and there was a fine crack most of the way up to the ceiling, (which was sealed by crown molding on all three sides) and I knew I couldn't just leave the tape there for very long if I wanted to increase my chances of not doing damage to the wallpaper. So I ran a fine bead of caulking alongside the cabinet, (the wallpaper has vertical white stripes so it isn't too obvious) peeling the tape back as I went. The tape did peel off parts of the wallpaper but I was able to seal the crack fairly decently. However, I found something that troubles me more than the messed up wallpaper.

The area right next to the entrance or exit as it were in this case, had an area about the size of a silver dollar that felt just like there was only wallpaper there and no drywall. I'm not sure if this is the edge of a hole that I theorized the previous owners covered almost covered up with the cupboard and wallpaper or perhaps more stomach churning, the sweat bees have utilized this home before and had destroyed the drywall so bad from the inside, that there is a huge terrible mess inside the wall of my kitchen. I shudder at the thought. Sweat bees don't build huge structures with honey like honeybees but still; I imagine the insulation is shot at the very least. Worse, to repair it, I would have to unmount the overhead cupboard, fix the drywall and insulation, and then have to redo the interior of the kitchen since the wallpaper would be ruined even more than it now is. I hate wallpaper and have stripped it from all the other rooms except the bathroom and the kitchen, the bathroom because it didn't look that bad and I haven't remodeled that room yet, and the kitchen because it is the most difficult with all the cupboards, outlets, doors, windows, etc. that I have to work around. Plus it is the center of our activity at least once every day.

So for now, I hope that little fist sized white spot of peeled wallpaper and the vertical seam of caulking will perhaps grow on me where I won't notice it too much until I think of a final solution. One solution that comes to mind is to sell the house and move but that seems a little extreme. So does redoing the wall in a kitchen…

10 comments:

R. Sherman said...

Yikes! Fortunately, I've yet to discover that sort of problem and I've been here nine years. I don't need an infestation of anything.

Cheers.

Beau said...

Ouch! Are these the same as yellowjackets?! That's awful, and those critters are merciless. Wouldn't want to duke it out with them. I'm surprised you didn't get stung more! I've read you can get a trap at the farm store- maybe hang it in the backyard?

Ed Abbey said...

R. Sherman - I didn't either. Unfortunate for them, they didn't ask my opinion first.

Beau - I thought so at first but they didn't have the long abdomens like yellowjackets. They look closer to the pictures of sweat bees that I've googled up. Still, I wouldn't bet money on my identification other than to say they weren't honeybees.

Sage said...

Desperate times call for drastic actions! I hope your fix works!

The Real Mother Hen said...

Wow! You didn't call pest control but handled the situation yourself? You're indeed a handyman, and very brave too.

Murf said...

It's a sign, Ed. Time for a kitchen makeover.

Murf said...

By the way, I cringed throughout this and am still cringing.

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - It has so far. No bees in the house or out back.

Mother Hen - I'm too cheap to do that.

Murf - But the kitchen is only six years old. See my response to Mother Hen above.

Murf - I'm glad that I made you cringe. I'm sure it wasn't the first time.

Hope said...

I read your comments on Phil's site and decided to come over...you kinda cracked me up at the image you described of caulking and spraying at the same time. I assume there was no cussing? lol. The hole on the wallpaper would eventually cause a facial tic on me so good on ya for being a little more resolute. ;)

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Face it Ed, We're outnumbered. Think of it this way, at least they aren't fire ants.