Saturday, August 14, 2004


I have written here before about bees. And here. Recently, I had a bee experience no man should have to endure. Now listen, any bees who may be out there reading this, cut it out.

I have always been one who got along with the bee. I watched Ulee's Gold and everything. I have seen photos in the Guinness Book of World Records with people with beards made of bees, and instead of merely thinking "What kind of a turd would do that?" I would instead think "What kind of a turd would do that, and is it safe for the bees?"

When I was ten years old, I bought from The Scholastic Book Club a copy of the novel The Swarm, and did at times root for the bees.

Bees and I were sympatico.

I should also state that I myself have never once been stung by a bee. For years, I would brag about it. "Thirty-two!" I'd say, sometimes slapping my palm on the table for emphasis. "And not one sting! Not one!"

Now, I'm starting to get a little offended. Am I not good enough for their sting?

I wonder if bees know that they're going to die after they sting someone. You'd think they would have figured that out by now, having seen a few of their bee chums go all crazy with the stinging, and immediately die, maybe with inspirational last bee words. This would, I would think, make them pretty selective about who would get their payload. If I were a bee, and I'd like to point out that I am not a bee, I'd have to really mean it. That's all I'm saying. You'd really have to menace my queen to get my sting. Now, if you want to mess around, shake up the hive a little bit, I'm cool with that. I'm not going to kill myself over it. But imagine that moment, when you've really made up your central nervous system that you're going to sting someone and end your bee life. I'd probably hum something dramatic. And I'd make sure there were a lot of other bees around, too. You don't want to sting your One Sting and have no-one around to see it. Actually, in that case, maybe I could talk one of the other drones into stinging for me.

Anyway, back to the story.

One day last week, I came home from work to about five hundred dead and dying bees in my house. They were piled by the sliding glass doors, in some spots five deep, like some hideous bee Jonestown. The first thought that went through my head was of course "Oh great. We're possessed." Because years of horror movie viewing have taught me that there is no good explanation for five hundred of your closest bee friends dropping by unannounced and keeling over en masse. Not unless your home is a portal to the Netherworld, of course.

So I had five hundred bees variously wriggling and being dead on my floor. I did what any rational person would do. I vacuumed them up. I should say that I felt kind of bad that the not-yet-dead bees would spend their remaining moments in a vacuum bag filled with cat hair, but it was a pragmatic solution.

I looked out at into our atrium and noticed there were quite a few bees doodling around out there. As I have stated I am usually a friend to bees, but I noticed they were milling about a hole in the stucco wall where a length of PVC pipe comes through from the garage, a drain for the A/C unit. Most people don't have such a drain in their atrium, but I wisely employed The World's Cheapest A/C Guy to install my air conditioning. I did this in hopes that I would get bees in my wall, obviously.

I sprang into action, grabbed some Raid Flying Insect Painful Death and Armageddon Spray, and leapt into the atrium. I'm sure I presented a pretty intimidating figure to my bee interlopers, as I held the can as far away from me as possible, shielded my face, and made little "don't sting me" noises. "Don't sting me" noises sound a lot like terror-stricken squeaks, by the way.

I doused the little hole in the wall with Raid, and the bees turned to me and said as one: "dude!"

I knew I had transgressed the unspoken law of bee-human interaction, and it was, as the kids say, on. The bees started to buzz around angrily, quite clearly not being even inconvenienced by the bug spray. But I did not, in fact, get stung. I yelped and retreated inside the house, though what safety the house offered was unclear, since five hundred bees had already found their way inside.

And bees started pouring out of the hole in the wall, into the atrium. They crawled out in orderly lines, with very little pushing and shoving. One thing was very clear: I had a beehive in the wall of my house.

To make this long and tedious story a little less tedious, let me say that I called the exterminator, who informed me that he couldn't get out to deal with the beehive until the next morning. I told him I had sprayed them with Raid and he said "That wasn't a good idea. Now you got angry bees."

"Angry bees?"

"Yep. See you tomorrow."

So I slept fitfully that night, my dreams filled with visions of ghost bees. But I survived. And he came out the next day and sprayed some stuff which actually does something into my wall.

To sum up, I still have not ever been stung by a bee. I feel like the beehive in the wall may have been my best chance, and I somehow missed out.

In a strange twist, a few days after that I was at a shop in San Francisco that sold dead bees. I'm not making that up. It's on Valencia next to Dave Eggers' place. They were selling dead bees for about ten dollars a pop.

I have five thousand dollars in my vacuum bag.


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