I was bee-set by bees bee-having badly

Day 1: I was doing a major outdoor project near the house, by my garage. I had wood, power tools, and extension cords all over the place. At one point, I noticed a huge bumble bee hovering about. Hmmm, that’s strange, I thought. There were no flowers where I was working.

Day 2: I’m working hard with a power drill. All of a sudden, I look up and I see not one but two huge bumble bees. Now I’m thinking: Hey, what’s going on here? All of a sudden — yow — I got stung on my left shoulder.

I don’t know what guys do who aren’t married to someone who knows everything, but I went screaming into the house, yelling for my wife. When she saw what it was, she got some water, dragged me back outside, mixed the water with some dirt, and slapped it on my shoulder. Surprisingly for something that crude, it actually worked. According to my wife, the mud draws the stinger out. How about that. Lucky I married up.

Day 3: I’ve dealt with nasty yellow-jacket ground nests before, so I reached into my playbook from that since I still had a ton or work to do outside. What I do when confronted with ground nests is to first find the hole. That was easy in this case.

The bumble bees were clearly coming and going from a hole close to the house on the side of the garage, right where I was working. I hooked up my shop vacuum cleaner and placed the hose — with as long an extension as I could rig up — so that it was right next to the hole. Then I watched and waited.

Sure enough, as bees returned to the hole — probably filled with pollen from flowers — they got sucked into the vacuum. Even ones that tried to exit the hole got sucked in as well. That’s a great trick you might want to file somewhere.

Let me say right here that I love bees and their symbiotic relationship with humans. We need them very, very much. However, when a nest is so close to your house that you or yours are getting stung, it just has to go, period.

Day 4: I went out early in the morning after putting the shop vac away the night before. I thought I was all done with the bees. Ha! Little did I know it was just the bee-ginning.

The bees started right back up, entering and exiting the hole again. I didn’t want to use the shop vac again because it’s rather loud. Instead, I got a fly swatter and, believe it or not, I was able to achieve a very high kill rate with that simple plastic tool.

If you sit by the hole, you can just see the yellow on their backs as they start to emerge. Then it’s like a game of whack-a-mole. The returning ones are trickier, as they circle the hole fairly rapidly, and only slow down when they’re sure it’s the right location. That’s when you get your chance to whack them.

Unfortunately, often the first whack doesn’t kill them; they can still crawl around for a very long time afterward unless you whack them several more times. Believe me, I took no pleasure in this, but it had to be done.

Day 5: I had thought I was all done by Day 5, but then another hole appeared and there were so many more I had to drag out the shop vac again. Yes, it was that bad. I have dry, sandy soil in that location, which turns out to be perfect for ground-nesting insects. By this time, I had finished the outdoor project, and now it was all about controlling the bee problem. I was a man on a mission.

Day 6: No vacuum needed but there were still so many bees coming and going that I would go outside, and if I just stood there for five minutes I was sure to see at least one or two. So that’s what I did all day, go in and out every now and then, hunting and killing bees.

I don’t know how many I got in total, but if you add in the ones sucked into the shop vac it has to be in the triple digits. I also put out a 2-liter soda bottle with the top cut off, stuffed back in upside down, and sugary soda inside. I read that bees would be attracted to the scent and get caught. Didn’t work. Got a lot of ants, though.

Day 7: Unbelievably, I had another hole develop and there were still more bees coming and going after a week. I was going bee crazy at this point! I looked up methods on YouTube for ground nest removal.

Some people are just nuts. Muriatic acid? Pouring gasoline into the hole and lighting it? Truly crazy stuff. Apparently bees don’t like the smell of garlic or cinnamon, but I was too far gone to try deterrent methods like that. I needed to end it sooner rather than later.

Day 8: The morning started with yet another hole in the same area. I sat there with the fly swatter and killed about 25 of them before the action stopped. I dug up the area but could not find the nest or the tunnels. Then I got out a big tarp and used concrete blocks to just cover the whole area. I checked in on it periodically after that and it appeared to have done the trick. Appeared.

Days 9 to 15: Every day with the tarp on the ground started out with about 25 angry bees wondering what was going on. They were so mad their incessant buzzing sounded like screaming. I was able to get most of them with the swatter, but boy were they angry.

Serendipitously, I heard a report on National Public Radio about ground-nesting insects like bees, ants, and wasps. Turns out some of them don’t have hives, but rather live alone underground where it’s cool and they can produce their larva. I think that’s what I was dealing with, though why there were so many I have no idea. Probably it was building up over time, and I only noticed it when I had that large outdoor project to do.

Day 16: Finally, no more bees. Hallelujah! My plan now is to put in patio pavers and stone to get rid of the sandy soil that attracted them in the first place. I’ve had my fill of bees for a long, long time. I don’t even want any honey these days.

Bee-lieve me, I bee-moan the fact that this bee-came such a beeg thing, truly bee-yond the imagination, and I’ll bee much more cautious bee-sides the house from now on. Un-bee-lievable. Just bee hopeful they don’t bee-set you next.