Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 15, 2012

Invasion of the Bees--and a Writing Lesson

by Fae Rowen

This morning I walk into the kitchen for a drink of water and see a large fly on the window.  Turns out to be a bee.

Well, with the diminishing numbers of the honeybee, I don't have the heart to smash it, so I try to "guide" it out the door.  Dumb human.

I get a small glass vase and cover the bee, thinking it will walk up the side of the vase.  Well, when I think my arm muscles can't take it anymore, the bee finally crawls along the vase and I pull it away from the window.  I slap a piece of paper over the neck of the now-empty vase, because a bee is much faster than me and a piece of paper is very flimsy.

Now I am fully engaged in the battle.  I get an acrylic block that I've been using to stamp some cards.  I have the right tools, and I cover the bee with the neck of the vase and wait.  That bee must be tired, or it's a fast learner, because in no time it climbs into the vase.  I pull it just enough away from the window to slide the acrylic sheet over the glass rim, walk to the closed door (so the cats won't get outside) and wonder if I wiggle my nose the door will open. Doesn't work.

But I have a human brain, much larger than a bee's. I turn the vase upside-down with the block underneath it and put it on the counter.  Now that I think of it, I didn't need to invert it, did I?  Okay, a stressed human brain.

Door open, vase at arms length, acrylic removed, the bee is free to the outdoors.

I rarely find an insect in my house, but occasionally one gets in through a briefly opened door.  I was feeling proud at saving a bee.  Hoping it wasn't one of those crazy African killer bees.  I see something move out of the corner of my eye.  Another bee flies to the window.

This time I am much more efficient at removing the insect.  But I listen and hear a disturbing loud buzzing noise.  The doors are closed.  I think about calling my neighbor to see if he has a beehive near our shared fence, but the buzzing is definitely inside my kitchen.  Lots of buzzing, not just one bee.   In the screen-covered non-working fan above my stove to be exact.

I look to see if there was a hole big enough for a bee to get through.  Nope.  But, oops--a bee appears at the end of the hood.

I grab two large papers and swat-guide the stunned bee outside.  It never made it to the kitchen window.

I go back to the stove and listen.  That tunnel above my range must be the site of a bee convention, because they are really buzzing now.

I've never been stung by a bee.  Don't know if I'm allergic. But I know I'm not going let bees have free access to my castle to attack my seventeen-year-old seven-pound Siamese cat.  After a ten-second struggle with the desire to sit down and cry for my absent husband or father to fix the bee problem while I read in another part of the house, I go to the garage to find weapons of war.

Trashbag and a roll of wrestling mat tape in hand, I approach the stove and another bee somehow makes it through the thin mesh.  This one I have to trap against the window and release before I try to cover the entire fan area with the trashbag.

You guessed it.  Just as I am attaching the first piece of tape, a bee escapes right next to my face.  I scream and drop everything.  Catch and release the bee.

Hey, bees don't like smoke, right?  (Love that human brain!) I get some matches, light a couple and hold them under the fan.  The buzzing increases, two bees fly out of the grill and I almost start a fire.

I catch and release those bees then debate about making a call to the exterminator, only to remember that they don't deal with pests with stingers.  Found that out with last summer's hornet's nest.

I have visions of a huge beehive, complete with a rack of dripping honey in the vent over the stove.  I check my cooktop for a small sticky mess.  None.  Yet.

What is it going to take to get them out of there?  Okay, lots of money, but how bad will the mess be?  Will my newly remodeled kitchen be damaged?

At this point I really want to feel sorry for myself and have a good cry, but I know I can't leave the kitchen.  I stand by the fan and wait for the next escapee.  Sure enough, antennae, head and body squeeze through between the edge of the fan screen and the hood.  I let him fly to the window and slap a couple of feet of wrestling mat tape (that stuff is wide!) over the whole length of the fan.  I wait.  And watch.  After five minutes there are no new escapees.

I go to the window, catch and release the last fugitive and finally get my drink of water before I check the taped edges.  Nothing.  No, really.  No bees.  No buzzing.  Magically they've all disappeared.

An hour later, still nothing.

And I started thinking about the experience as a lesson.  Heck, I had to get something out all that excitement, right?

If I'd just swatted the first bee and gone back to the computer, my kitchen would have been buzzing with the creatures by the time I took another break.  As writers, if we just swat at what doesn't work in our writing and continue doing the same thing, by the time we look at our WIP, it will be one buzzing mess.

Effective, compassionate action, on the other hand, can force us to become more engaged in the process.  The more bees I captured and released, the better I got at it.  The more words I put on paper, the better writer I become. The more tools I acquire and practice I get with them, the stronger my writing is.

When we take the time to pay attention and practice to master skills, we become even better at recognizing a problem in our work and looking for a solution.  If the first attempt at a fix fails, we can try another approach, and another.  The more writing skills we accumulate, the less problems we write for ourselves.  We become invested in making our work the best it can be and, eventually, we solve any problems we've encountered with the scene or the plot or the characterization. And we sell a book.

It's about doing whatever it takes.

The weird thing is, I have no evidence of the bee invasion.  I'm sure it did happen, but I have a few friends who'll think I'm just regaling them with a funny story when I tell them about my morning.  Of course, I won't be telling them about the writing lesson I got from the bees.  That story is only for you.

Have you had an interesting life experience that taught you something about writing?  Share it with us so we can all learn from it.

0 comments on “Invasion of the Bees--and a Writing Lesson”

  1. Great post. Totally had my attention the entire time. The wrap up put some of my recent thoughts into organized words. Thanks.
    I handle my bug invasions with a hand held vac with a long hose. Same catch and release plan, but with some distance.

  2. GREAT post and I howled when I rea your varied strategies for bee removal. Especially loved the one-off on cost of an entirely renovated kitchen.

    I hadn't connected the tale I'm about to tell until your post. To put things, in perspective. Over a decade ago, my hubster discovered he had early stage Prostrate Cancer. Very early stage, thankfully. Yes, he's doing fine.

    Still, it had been a stressful week, so we chose to drive to the lake-house we then owned. A little piece of log-cabin, piney-woods nirvana. We arrived late, exhausted, stressed, and ready to sit in front of a fire in the fireplace.

    That's when I saw something odd on my kitchen counter. A blob of goop. I turned to ask hubster what it might be, and noticed another on the table, more on the backs and seats of our living room furniture. And, I knew what it was.

    Bird poop. Big bird poop. Big bird poop left by a duck who frantically flew from room-to-room seeking a way out and depositing evidence everywhere. OH! What I would have done for a CSI crime-scene clean-up crew!

    I wanted to cry. I wanted to put a "for sale" sign in front of the house. I NEEDED to give the duck a proper burial at lake.

    There have been times when my WIP needed so much clean-up, I wanted to chuck it all. There have been times, I knew I HAD to bury some precious scenes to properly dispose of the HazMat mess. Those are the times that test all writers. But, as I had to do at the lake house, I suck it up (eventually) and make the hard choices.

    Sorry for the post masquerading as a novella, Rae. I connected.

    Now, go close the damper on your fireplace before birds descend to eat the bees. Happy writing!

    1. OMG! I never thought about the fireplace--and that damper is--was, open. Don't you just love how when we share out stories, other memories come back to show us more?
      Thanks for sharing yours.

  3. I enjoyed the tale of the bees. It's always interesting when something happens so we writers can get find a lesson or writing story in it. Glad to hear that your bees went away, but I'd be having someone take a look at that fan before it happens again. Glad you saved the bees!

    1. Not braver. Maybe dumber, but I was highly motivated by the circumstances. At least, that's my excuse. If I have that problem again, I'm going to use Sally's tip and run for the vacuum cleaner with the longest hose!

  4. I live in Australia and often have to remove spiders both big and small from my house. I do my best not to kill them with the glass jar or bowl (depending on the size) and a flat sheet of firm card and the door opening fiasco et al. All living things are important to me. I have a large garden that often demands precedence over my writing. But why? I've reasoned. My writing is a living thing and it too needs care and attention. It needs pruning often and definitely there are plants that are in the wrong spot and need replacing, other sections need nourishment, a revitalise, a dig over or rooting out. I do all this for my garden and am about to apply these same tactics to my latest WIP. Thanks for your bee story, it resonated.

    1. Okay, I'm kinder and gentler too, but I draw the line at spiders! YUK! I know, they're good to keep insects down...but I don't mind insects, it's the spiders I can't stand!!

      1. Thanks for replying. I know what you mean. I was walking my dog through bushland the other day and I inadvertently passed through a web. Much bashing my hair and body about thinking something hairy and dark was on me. But I deal with spiders in my house during the day; it's at night they become mobile. I don't mind bees either, but things that fly are something else to deal with.

        1. When I've walked through a spider web in my yard I'm always startled. My reaction would probably make a pretty good You Tube video. I brush widely at my head and shoulders. I have long hair and I'm sure that the spider is lurking in it. Sometimes I run into the house and check myself in a mirror, even though I know that the spiders that make webs in my yard are not dangerous. You're right, it's just creepy to feel the web against your skin. And at night is the worst.

  5. Yep, I'm pretty much out of there at the first sign of a bee. UNLESS my daughter is around (same as your kitties, ain't no stinging thing getting near my baby!), then I'm an Amazon. Thankfully, I've only had to shoo a few out of the house while she's there. 🙂

  6. When I get to Texas (if I'm still spry enough to walk by then) I plan to keep bees.
    They've always facinated me -- I think they get a bad rep!
    They don't want to hurt you -- did you know honeybees usually die after stinging?
    They only do it when they think their life is threatened.
    So glad you ushered them out, Fae.

    1. Every time I see a dead bee on the sidewalk I think of all our food that is pollinated by bees. You're braver than me about the whole bee-keeping thing, though. I'll visit you for honey!

  7. Fae, we could probably have something of a horror story in the making with this accumulation of creepy crawly tales and fantasies. But I'll bow out for now and think of a heroine wrapped in a spider's web. Thanks, Jeanne

  8. Fae, I'm a former beekeeper. The fact that they were coming through the vent might mean you have a hive in your attic. If you do, you might consult a beekeeper to see if they can remove the hive, though it's nearly impossible. My husband went to a house where they discovered a hive (now abandoned) in the attic. The combs holding honey that stuck to the insulation were huge. And the honey was no good because of the insulation. An attic fan might disturb them enough to leave. Good luck!


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