Buzz in the neighborhood a real honey of a story

Friday, September 23, 2011

A man must know and embrace his limitations. That's one of my basic rules to live by.

Just as Groucho Marx once vowed he would never belong to any country club that would have him as a member, I've always subscribed to the theory I would never live in a house in which I have had anything to do with any part of the electricity.

Leave the heavy lifting to the experts, I say.

Brad Roberson takes on a swarm of bees, part of an estimated 40,000-50,000 he recovered from inside the wall, and then examines the honeycombs he collected from the hive.

That's why we've had an army of people swarming around the house this week, undertaking a renovation project designed to bring our kitchen into the 21st -- or at least the 20th -- century. Drywall guys, cabinet men, backsplash tile man, appliance installers ... with others yet to come.

But a honey of a byproduct to all that work has been the long-awaited great bee removal effort.

With all that has been going on inside the house, we've also had to coordinate the outside efforts of Keith Hutcheson and his guys from Criss and Hutcheson with the arrival of bee man Brad Roberson and his beekeeping wizardry.

Hutcheson and the boys were out just after dawn earlier this week to disassemble the siding they had installed on the west side of the house about six or seven years ago. Siding pieces strategically removed and numbered for easier reinstallation, Roberson was ready to take on the bees.

But even before he donned his Buzz Aldrin-like beekeeper suit, which looked better suited for a moonwalk, one of the rogue bees taking up residence in the side of the house ventured out and nailed him right between the eyes. All I could think of was, better him than me ...

"The bees are angry," Roberson responds as he takes off his hat to reveal another crawling around inside.

As the bee man works, we all get less and less brave, taking baby steps backward and moving farther and farther away from the side of the house.

Roberson, meanwhile, keeps prying vigorously on a horizontal board just above the air conditioning unit until more angry, buzzing bees begin to materialize all around him.

Not since Custer looked over the hillside at the Little Big Horn has anyone seemed so outnumbered.

Roberson estimates our hole-in-the-wall beehive population at 40,000-50,000 bees. No wonder the dog wouldn't even go on the west side of the house.

The bees cover his mask, squeeze beneath it and sting him in the neck. Now they're swarming out of the opening and into the air around us.

Roberson is even talking to the bees now: "Why did you have to sting me in the neck?" he mutters.

None of your beeswax, I expected them to answer.

Here they come, and there goes Keith Hutcheson. Legs churning as he's running around the front yard, beating back bees with his ballcap, he looks like some crazed cartoon character. Somebody yells, "Yabba-dabba-do!" They had to.

Meanwhile, Roberson is giving us a running account of bee lore.

Seems the queen only sees daylight twice in her life -- when she's born and when she leaves the hive to mate with multiple drones. The males, he says, mate and die. Suddenly, even I'm feeling sorry for the bees.

Roberson is vacuuming them into bee boxes now, and in short order he begins cutting up the honeycomb inside my basement wall.

He's got stacks of sweet, sticky wax now, and the number of bees buzzing the neighborhood like little lost souls is subsiding.

From the looks of things, the hive has been in the wall two years or more, Roberson tells us.

But still 40,000-50,000 bees? Honey of a bunch.

They can live with Brad around Cloverdale now. Ah, Cloverdale, a perfect place for bees, I'd say.

At least that's the buzz.