Emily teams up with bees to make life interesting


September 04, 1993|By ROB KASPER

The official reason Hurricane Emily did not clobber Maryland is that wind currents in the upper atmosphere pushed Emily out to sea.

But Jeff, the air conditioning repairman, and I know better. The hurricane did not hit because, as Emily lingered offshore, Jeff and I refused to yield to the temptation to slice a hole in the roof of my Baltimore rowhouse.

Slicing up your roof when a hurricane is in the vicinity is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It is a provocation. Faster than you could say "all done," the hurricane would come storming in, dumping several inches of rain, ripping up communities. Not to mention the patch on my roof.

And so on Tuesday morning, with the repairman on my roof and the hurricane lurking off the Atlantic coast, I made the hard call. I bowed to the hurricane and told the repairman not to fix my air conditioner.

I told Jeff to come back to my house a few days later when the hurricane would be gone. Then, without fear of retaliation from Emily, he could peel away the shingles covering the sides of the air conditioner that sat on the roof of my house. With the roofing material removed, he could get the cover off the air conditioner and fix its broken parts, then patch up the roof.

Sure enough, a few hours after Jeff retreated from the roof, Emily turned away from the Maryland coast. This hurricane-baiting episode was proof of a larger truth. Namely, that if a homeowner prepares for a disaster, it won't strike. However, the minute a homeowner drops his guard, the forces of domestic disorder will smack him big time.

Take, for example, what happened a few weeks earlier when I spent a week in a beach house in Chincoteague, Va., with my wife and two kids and three relatives from Kansas City. I thought I was prepared for most any home repair problem. I had packed screwdrivers, saws, hammers, pliers, even a big, powerful staple gun to fasten down any flapping window screens. But I did not have any bee-battling equipment.

And that is what I needed most. Bees took up residence in our bedroom. They were yellow jackets. Before they moved into the bedroom, the only things I knew about yellow jackets were that they were pesky, packed a powerful sting and liked to hang around partially filled cans of soda.

I subsequently learned that yellow jackets, like honeybees, can make a big nest in your attic if they find a little bitty gap in the eaves or fascia boards of your house. Yellow jackets don't make honey, but they do chew up stuff, such as the plaster ceiling that gets wet from the drippings of their ever-expanding nest.

I found this out one afternoon when the bees chewed a couple of holes in a moisture-soaked section of the bedroom ceiling in the beach house. This "big buzz out" happened after I called an exterminator. But it occurred the day before the exterminator could get to the house and battle the bees.

The bees struck when my guard was down. I had bicycled back to the house from the beach and was about to cook fresh shrimp for supper. Then I walked into the bedroom and saw about 50 yellow jackets flying around the bedroom.

Outnumbered and bereft of any bee-battling tools, I ran. I shut the bedroom door, stuffed a towel under it, and waited in the hallway.

The bees stayed in the room. They left the women and children alone when my wife, her sister and the four kids arrived. That night we kept the door to the "bee room" tightly closed and slept, somewhat fitfully, in other rooms.

The next morning, "bee-day," I got the kids up early, slathered them with sun block and sent them, along with their mothers, back to the beach. That left just me and Ed the exterminator. Ed was packing an arsenal of aerosol bombs full of bee-killing gas. I didn't hang around too long. Ed, a man of few words, told me he didn't need any help. He told me this as he put on his bee suit, a thick jumpsuit, and his thick gloves. He also had a gas mask. But I was long gone before he put that on.

Hours later I returned alone to the house to air out the rooms, and sweep up the hundreds of vanquished bees.

These adventures in home repair were learning experiences for me. I now know that to avoid a hurricane, you delay patching your roof. And to avoid sharing your bedroom with yellow jackets you plug up every hole in your house's eaves and fascia boards. And you carry bee bombs in your tool kit.

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