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Friday, March 6, 2009

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Billions of Bees

Recently, we had a small team visit The Pines from Point of Grace Church in Waukee, IA. The project of choice turned out to be new gutters and facia for portions of The Pines building. Unfortunately, it turned out the portion chosen was home to roughly 300 wasps, and several billion bees.

In one corner of the building there was a small crack, and these bees had found it an ideal location for a hive. When I say there were hundreds of thousands of bees swarming around here, it is not an exaggeration. As you can imagine, they were not excited about us poking around the entrance of their hive.

Our first method of attack was to use expanding, insulating foam to close the crack and prevent the bees from exiting or entering. We determined the best course of action would be to do this at nighttime, when the bees seemed to be most calm. The next morning, we woke up to find the bees had found a different entrance further down the crack. Another night of foaming, and in the morning we discovered the bees can, although with great difficulty, eat through aforementioned foam.

The next weapon in our small war was a smoking suppository, inserted into the building to hopefully eliminate the bee problem. This proved unsuccessful. Another attempt involved spraying the bees with retail insect killer. Again, a poor option. This only tipped off the insects to our intentions, and riled them up something fierce. In the midst of this Bill, a team member, suffered a bee sting, on top of the wasp sting received a day earlier on his hand.

After much discussion, we determined that the best option may be a truce - the "live and let live" approach. I was chosen as the most likable person, so it was my job to get up on the scaffold and work that section. Gene, a team member joined me, but as you can see, he didn't put much faith in the "live and let live" theory. Brian initially was my co-worker 30 feet up, but apparently bees can smell hostility, and Brian had been the main culprit of our previous attacks. Brian was quickly stung on the hand, then again on the side of the head, so he chose to cease and desist.

It was then that Gene made the decision to sacrifice personal comfort for the sake of new gutters. While Gene was the only one who escaped unscathed, I think he may have suffered more in the 90 degree heat wearing his homemade bee suit.

The next decision was to just try and finish that section at night, which seemed mostly successful, except that Sylvia, one of the housemothers, was unable to sleep with the extensive pounding and general commotion. Most of the hazardous section was completed in the dark.

Considering the variety of stings distributed amongst the team members, a great debate raged as to whose was the manliest. Manliness was an ongoing discussion during the week, with Brian as the de facto standard, as he refuses to wear leather work gloves regardless of the job. I maintain that while Bill's wasp sting showed the most swelling, as it was on the hand it did not qualify as Most Manly. Brian suffered two stings - one to the head, one to the hand - and while the head would normally take top honors, in my mind I emerged from the fray as most manly. While on the top of the scaffold riveting gutter, I felt a bee land on my eyebrow. As I danced my "get off, get off" jig, the bee decided to continue his ill fated attack and sting me anyway. Although, I think I won since the bee died as a result of his decision.

Anyway, after coming down from the scaffold, I was examined by the others and Brian found the remains of the stinger lodged in my eyelid. The pain was minimal, and was completely gone within a couple hours, to the point that I forgot it really had happened. Unfortunately, after a good night's sleep, I awoke to find my eyelid quite swollen and difficult to keep open. Which is further evidence that I take home first prize as the most manly of men.

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