Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Aunt Florence and the Honey Bees

I wasn't very old when Aunt Florence had her encounter with bees, and I didn't get to witness it because my mother would not let me go over there while it was going on.  Still it made a great ongoing story, and I was fascinated.

Aunt Florence was the quintessential homemaker.  She raised five kids, canned and baked all their food, belonged to The Grange, and delighted in having a house full of people all the time.  For years, we went to her house for Sunday  supper.  It wasn't anything special, except to me. She usually just laid out sandwich fixings, but they were things I didn't get at home: white bread, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, sliced bologna with the rind still on, and homegrown tomato slices.  I thought those sandwiches were heavenly.  And when she brought out fresh-squeezed lemonade instead of milk, I knew there was no finer meal.

The bees broke up those Sunday suppers!  It all started with Aunt Florence hearing something that no one else could hear.  Her children and grandchildren knew she had good hearing, because she could always hear them getting into trouble. Still, her husband shrugged off her reports of a humming noise in the house.  She went to the ear doctor, but it wasn't tintinnus -- she didn't hear it outside the house. 

Next, she spotted a stain on one corner of the dining room ceiling.  She suspected a water leak, but they determined that all water pipes were on the other side of the house. It might have been coming from a roof leak, but this was a two-story house, and there was no sign of a leak in the attic or on the second floor.  What could it be? 

Uncle Laurence owned a hardware store, and he sent the fellow he used to install gutters over to take a look around the outside of the roof.  In just a few minutes, he came scurrying into the house, saying that bees were after him. However, there was no sign of trouble on the outside of the house, unless someone got too close to a certain downspout.

The ever-resourceful Aunt Florence now convinced the repairman to put up a stepladder in the dining room and feel the stain to see if it was wet.  He reported that it was sticky! Taste it, she suggested. Sure enough, it was honey. Bees had entered a small hole where the downspout attached to the house. Then they built their honeycombs inside the walls of the house.

Removing them became a major undertaking. A bee-keeper came to capture as many as he could by using some sort of jerry-rigged vacuum cleaner and a long hose.  Then poison was pumped into the wall to kill the rest. (I know! That was probably horribly dangerous, but it was effective.)  Then the walls had to be knocked out, and pounds and pounds of wax, honey, and dead bees were pulled out of the wall.

I've never liked honey, since then.

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