To Bee or Not To Bee

February 10, 2008


This evening, one of my daughters came running down the stairs with wide eyes. She said she kept hearing a very loud rustling, banging, and squeaking in her room. It sounded like it was something behind her furniture. She was sufficiently disturbed to warrant me to leave my writing and go upstairs with her.

Of course, when I got there, everything was silent. I ventured over to the area of the room she said she had heard the noises. I pounded on the wall, and suddenly I heard the loudest rustling noise I’d ever heard in this house before. I figured it was mice in the walls, judging by the noise and squeaks, but I have to admit it surely was a great deal of rustling in that wall. And because my daughter’s bedroom walls are uninsulated, everything echoes.

We couldn’t figure out why the mice were so noisy. It sounded like they were wrestling each other and banging their bodies on the narrow walls. Then I remembered that the same area of wall had been filled with honey! Ah yes, a story within a story!

A few years ago, I was innocently sitting in my living room near the window when I spotted a shadowy movement in the corer of my eye. I looked to see a great big swarm of honeybees had descended toward the house and started shooting against the wall next to the second-storey window. I went outside to see millions of bees swarming around my window. They were entering a small hole in the siding. It was hole left behind by the electric company, when they redid out electric service (a tree had fallen and ripped out the service the year before). The workers had re-hung the electrical service a few inches away from the original mount. They never sealed up the hole, however. The bees swarmed in. Holy cow, what a sight! I wish I’d had a video camera then.

Well, to make a long story short, we had no idea how to get rid of bees in the walls, so we left it for a year. Yes, a year. Shame on us. I guess those bees were pretty busy. By the time we finally got to opening up the wall (after calling a local beekeeper for advice, and sealing off the bedroom with plastic sheeting), there was an enormous honeycomb. I’d guess maybe thirty pounds of honey. It was a pretty incredible thing to see. The honeycomb was in layers between the studs. It looked like pages of a book. The bees were dopey (it being cool weather) and we vacuumed them up with our shop vac. I now regret doing that, as bees have become rare in Upstate NY and I wish we’d figured out some way to let them go.

Well, the cleanup job was a lot of work, as you can imagine. We tried our best to get all that honey out of the walls (and off the floor, and off our clothing, and off our shoes), but we did leave a small portion of the comb stuck to the studs. It was rock hard and no amount of scraping would chisel it off the wood entirely. It wasn’t a lot– very little actually, so we sealed up the walls.

Anyway, the mice have found the remains of the honeycomb, I guess. Judging by their noisy ramblings, sounds like they’re contesting ownership something fierce. Here’s hoping those rodents settle down enough so that my girls can get some sleep tonight!

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