It was probably the summer of 1994, a drought summer for Oregon. Mark and I were still newlyweds, having just married in May of that year. We had a houseful of teenagers and pre-teens, and I was in college full time while Mark looked for work. We here happy and in love, but life was a little stressful.
Then the bees came...
Mark braved the crawl space under the kitchen and found a drip in the pipe that was attracting the yellowjackets. I forget what he did to fix the problem, but it involved manly dirty scary work. My hero.
By now the kids were pretty jumpy about yellowjackets, so when Polly and Kendra, who shared the attic bedroom, began complaining about bees in their bedroom, I didn't pay too much attention. The girls insisted that they kept finding yellowjackets up there, and they began sleeping on the living room couches at night. They only went up to their room to get a change of clothes, and they made those trips as fast as they could. It was hot up in the attic during the summers, so I didn't blame them for wanting to sleep downstairs.
After a couple of weeks of yellowjackets in the attic, Mark and I finally did a more careful investigation. We discovered that there were, indeed, yellowjackets coming through the fluorescent light fixtures in the peak of the ceiling. The fixtures had little holes at the end, near the ballast gizmo, and we actually saw a yellowjacket come crawling out.
Mark said he had done his share of manly dirty scary work, and he wasn't going after these bees. This is when I found out that he feels certain he has an allergy to bee stings. He has never actually been stung by a bee, and these weren't technically bees, but he still wanted nothing to do with this project.
Many years prior to this, my first husband had kept a hive of bees in our backyard for several years. Though that hive was long gone, I still had the beekeeper veil and long leather gloves down in the basement. Mark fixed up a tube of caulk into the caulking gun while I suited up. The kids watched with big eyes. Then I grimly marched up the attic stairs to do the deed.
It was hot sweaty scary work. It seemed to take hours, but I was probably up in the attic for all of thirty minutes or so. I was no expert at caulking, but in all these years, Mark has never criticized the sloppy application of caulk around those fluorescent fixtures. I laid it on thick and goopy. Three or four yellowjackets buzzed in the attic that summer afternoon, and I actually caulked one of them in place coming through the hole while I was doing the job. That'll teach 'em, I thought.
It took several days and a thorough vacuuming of the attic to convince the girls that the room was safe again. Trauma like that takes time to heal!
Thankfully, we have never experienced such an insect invasion again since then, but to this day, no one in the family likes to remember...the summer of the bees.
Other bee notes: Another time, when Mark was doing some electrical work in the attic crawl space above the kitchen ceiling, he shone his flashlight into a corner near the eaves and saw a huge paper-wasp next hanging from a rafter. It was about the size of a basketball. He freaked out for a few minutes until he was able to figure out that no one was home; it was an old, dead nest.
In 2005, when we gutted/remodeled the house, I was tearing out lath and plaster from the angled part of the ceiling in our bedroom. I ran into a whole section of honeycomb in between the studs. No bees, no honey but the scent of honey still lingered. It was a lovely discovery, and I actually relished the thought of that small hive of bees hidden in the walls. I wouldn't have felt the same way about it if the bees had still been home! They must have lived there pre-1980, when we had the vinyl siding installed. I was fascinated that the beeswax--it was old and dark--could retain the scent of honey for so long.