May 23, 2006

The War

Today, two days before my partially outdoor graduation party, my parents and I have discovered a nest of bees entrenched in the small gap between the brick and the wood that makes up the back wall of our house. The wood part of the second floor has a slight overhang over the brick wall of the first story, so the bees have set up the entrance to their camp in the upper corner, underneath the overhang. At any given moment, there are about twenty to thirty bees patrolling the area around the entrance for several feet in every direction. This poses a problem; how to get at them?
My parents and I looked up various remedies on the Internet, from soapy water to pesticides. The problem was, anything that we used would have to project itself up the hole in order to reach the nest, meaning anything non-compressed and ready-to-shoot was out of the question. My mom went to Lowe's and returned twenty minutes later with two different types of Wasp/Hornet spray while my dad and I cleared the plants underneath the overhang. This was war, and we wanted to minimize civilian casualties.
My mom dressed for action - a jacket and a pair of gardening gloves. My dad and I set up our ladder a few feet from the overhang and, armed with the first can of insecticide, she slowly planted a foot on the first step. With no response from the bees, she advanced cautiously, gripping the can tightly. About halfway up the ladder, she aimed and fired. The spray from the insecticide, supposedly 25 feet long, was in fact about five feet at best. She emptied the can at the bees, but to no avail, at least that we could see.
My dad, similarly dressed, took the second can and, like the first wave, he crept up the ladder, checking for any reaction at each step. We had moved the ladder closer for this attempt, but the spray still fell pitifully short of the entrance to the nest. He emptied this can as well, but this was more to get rid of it than out of any real trust that it would work.
For our next attack, we waited until near dusk, when websites and friends had told us that the majority of the bees were likely to be in the nest. And indeed, the number of bees patrolling seemed to have lessened. Emboldened by our successful prediction, we moved the ladder directly underneath the entrance to the nest for our next weapon: a fogger.
Foggers are generally used indoors: a "fogged" house would have one of these pressurized canisters set on the floor of every room with all the furniture covered and people and pets evacuated. A jet of toxic insecticide would spray out vertically from the top of the canister, and this chemical would saturate the air inside the house, killing any unwanted inhabitants (this also works well for stowaways and those kids who never know when the game of hide-and-seek is over).
We set up the fogger outside, against the directions on the label. But we had had success with foggers in the past (indoors), and we had faith in its ability to shoot directly inside the nest, and perhaps saturate the air in there.
My parents dragged the ladder, as I said, directly underneath the entrance to the nest. We found an unused flowerpot filled with soil (we hope nothing was growing there - it's dead now, anyways), and set it down gingerly on the top platform of the ladder. While I, jacketed and gloved, held the ladder steady, my dad, also re-armored, scaled our assault vehicle and, once at the top, planted the fogger firmly in the flowerpot, facing the top in the direction of the nest.
We all held our breaths, and my dad depressed the button on top. A short burst, and then nothing; a false start.
He did it again, this time holding it down for a few seconds, and suddenly a spray of gas shot straight at the entrance to the next. Holding his breath, my dad descended the ladder quickly, and we all retreated to a safe distance. The fogger, it seemed, was working. Although no bees were dropping like flies yet, it was aimed perfectly at the nest, and definitely getting its noxious fumes inside. But the fumes were also spreading out at least a few feet from the ladder. We all retreated inside and watched from a window, waiting and hoping for victory.
I'm starting to think we need an exit strategy.

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