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Don't 'bee' a dummy

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Seven years ago, The Wife and I bought a quaint house in a small town. I planted a fragrant tea olive bush just off the sidewalk near the front door. At the time, The Wife asked if the hole was too close to the house or main sewer drain clean-out.

I replied, “Nope, it’s a small bush and over two feet away from the solid drain pipe. It should be fine.” Planting that tea olive would eventually grow into an extremely painful and expensive decision.

Seven years later.

Washing the morning dishes, I noticed the kitchen sink drained but gurgled. Since it seemed to be working, I ignored it and went to work.

By noon The Wife called. Apparently when she did laundry, the kitchen sink wouldn’t drain. In fact, the opposite happened. All the drains in the house now gurgled and bubbled up an ugly liquid. She stopped the laundry, and I called a plumber on my way home.

The plumber said he could come out late the next day, but advised that I should first check the main sewer clean-out. I finally found the clean-out after cutting large limbs off the now eight-foot, fragrant tea olive just off the sidewalk near the front door.

I called the plumber back and told him somehow the drain was now full of roots. He suggested that, to save money, I could dig around the pipe before he arrived in the morning.

I got a shovel and started digging.

Halfway through the project, my shovel broke. Not wanting to waste the cool spring afternoon, I decide to cut the bushes lining the driveway. These too were small when planted years ago. The once mini-bushes now formed a seven-foot tall and six-foot wide solid hedge.

My new gas powered hedge clippers on the end of an articulation pole would do the job nicely. After finishing our side, I started down my neighbor’s side. That’s when I heard an all too familiar buzzing sound coming from the hedge.

I threw my new clippers at the black swarm as it emerged and ran for my life. The airborne clippers didn’t stop them. Seems hornets don’t much care to have their nest cut into.

I was still running when the clippers dug into the dirt. The articulating shaft broke on impact.

The five stings on my left hand quickly started to swell. The Wife not home, so I drove to the doctor’s. By the time I arrived my hand looked like Popeye’s post-spinach hand.

The nice nurse gave me a shot, a prescription, and suggested I stay away from hornets.

Not willing to give up, I called the wise old guy in Florida. At 84, I’m sure my dad has had many encounters with hornets and knows just how to eradicate them. His advice sent me to the giant hardware store with the orange roof for supplies.

Armed with my father-prescribed weapons of hornet destruction and a Popeye-sized hand, I walked over to my neighbors’ house, and rang his doorbell. With 2-year-old twin daughters, he should be informed about the danger hidden in the hedges.

He came out, took one looked at me and stopped in his tracks. Being my neighbor for the last five years failed to prepare him for the vision he now he saw. I tried to tell him about the swarm, but all he could do was ask about all the stuff I was carrying.

I explained.

The binoculars hanging around my neck were so I could find the exact location of the nest and best avenue of attack from 50 feet away – a very safe distance. The large blanket was to wrap around my body so nothing would be exposed. The jumbo-size hornet killer in a can advertised a 27-foot solid stream of foaming death.

Then I handed him the broom. After I sprayed the nest, his job was to hit the hedge to make sure all of the hornets were indeed destroyed.

After all, it was only fair. Yes, I planted the bushes, but in seven years they have grown very wide and now the nest was actually on his property.

That’s when my neighbor handed me the broom, laughed, and retreated safely back inside.

The 27-foot solid stream of death turned out to be only eight feet of sputtering foam. And yes, after you hit their nest with a broom, hornets CAN quite easily fly through sputtering foam.

Escaping with no additional stings yet still wanting to rid my neighbor of his wasp nest, I went to the one source that holds all the answers – the Internet.

Where I found you can rent a bee suit.

This is what I’ve learned over the last few days. Seven years ago, I should have listened to The Wife about planting a bush too close to the sewer drain. We now have an expensive plumbing repair.

Two days ago when the kitchen sink started to gurgle, I shouldn’t have just ignored it.

There is no truth in some advertising on the sides of spray cans.

Throwing my new gas-powered articulating hedge clippers at a swarm of hornets didn’t do anything except really anger the swarm. It does, however, do an effective job of destroying the clippers as they plunge into the ground.

Don’t hit hedges with a broom when they contain a hidden hornets’ nest as big as a basketball. It takes one shot and three days for a Popeye-hand to return to normal.

But what’s the most important thing I learned? Don’t be a dummy and rent a bee suit off the Internet. They don’t really work as advertised – especially if you don’t zip it up all the way. Leave bee removal to the experts. A qualified company is coming by our house in the morning.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for over 26 years and a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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