Thoughts on all things garden themed from an antique dealer gone amuck! I write, play with the dogs, and fill my house with garden art. There is hardly time to work the dirt!

Copyright 2010-2013 Barbara Barth, Writer With Dogs

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Cottage In My Mind: A Bee In My Bonnet

The Cottage In My Mind: A Bee In My Bonnet:    Dreaming of changing my old ranch house into the cottage in my mind is the subject of my newest blog. I am working on gardening issues now and would love some input! The link above will take you to that blog. Come say hello! Help me with gardening advice. What should I plant along my new picket fence that has mostly shade??? Thanks, Barbara

“Watch out!” I screamed at my handyman as the bees buzzed overhead. I have a morbid fear of being stung and I didn't want him to get zapped while working on my new picket fence.

“I see them.” He swatted at the air above his head with his old cap. “Geez. I hate bees!”

Nobody was stung, thank goodness. But I had a problem to address. While the fence in front of my house was near completion, the side corner that frames the driveway was buzzing with bees.

We stood there looking at the area he had to work on next.

“What do you think?” I looked at him, concerned, but somewhat disgusted there was a problem to solve.

“Don't know. I guess I could dig out the old fence, like I did on this side." He turned back to where he had all but completed my picket fence. "But there weren't bees there. Bees and I don't get along.”

The remains of the old split rail fence were covered with plants and shrubs. It had once been a flower bed, but years of neglect turned it into a jungle. I wanted flowers again, framed by my new fence. The only thing I planned to save was the sweet pink rose that managed to thrive over the years.

“Wonder what kind of bees they are?” I thought about all my old Victorian paintings with their honeybees flying over roses and lilacs in baskets.

I watched as the bees seemed to play in the air and soar above our heads, only to disappear back into the thick shrubs. They hardly noticed us.

“I'll bet they are honeybees.”

I called the county extension services and was put in touch with their master gardener.

“Not time for honeybees, nor yellow jackets. You say there is a wood fence there? Probably carpenter bees. April is the month you start seeing them.”

“Do you know someone I can call to get rid of them?"

“You can buy spray to kill them. But that could also annoy them. They really aren't aggressive, unless provoked. Do you have a tennis racket? Try to chase them away with that.”

Her remark brought back a flood of memories! My husband used to keep his old tennis racket by the kitchen door. He'd take it outside to deal with the carpenter bees when he saw them at the back of the house. I tossed it away a few months ago in a house cleaning frenzy. My timing was off on that one. But I didn't really picture my handyman or myself down by the fence swinging a racket."

“Do you have someone I could call.” I repeated myself.

She gave me the name of a guy, a beekeeper, who might help. “Tell him you know you can spray, but wanted his help to do it. Most likely he'll say no.”

Not to be discouraged I called him.

“Don't want to take your money for something you can do yourself.” I had a good old country boy on the phone.

“I'm pretty sure they are carpenter bees, and I know I can spray, but I'm scared. And so is my handyman.”

“If he is a handyman, he's not afraid of bees. Ask him. Never met a handyman who couldn't handle a few carpenter bees, unless they are wasps or something else. But with that fence there, they most likely are carpenter bees. Can't take your money for that.”

Please take my money, I silently pleaded.

“I'd feel better if you could come and take a look. I'll pay for your time.”

“If you're that worried, I'll come in the morning. Want to be sure you know what you're talking about. Wouldn't want you to hit a wasp nest. But most likely them carpenter bees. Can't take your money for that.”

It rained liked the heavens opened up that night. By morning it was bright again. My handyman showed up, but the bees did not.

An old pickup truck pulled up into the driveway just as I was assessing the bee situation. A man in his late forties jumped out and walked over to introduce himself.

“Do you think the rain chased them away?” I looked again at the quiet bushes and worried they were gone for now, but would be back, and my beekeeper would be gone.

Then a bee flew out of the bushes and circled us.

“Yep. You got carpenter bees.” He bent over and pulled back some limbs to see the split rail fence. “You can see the holes.” He thumped on the fence and more bees appeared. “Won't hurt you. Unless of course you bother them.”

Wasn't that what he just did thumping on the fence? But the bees just flew about. One brushed against my hand and took back off. They did not appear to be concerned with us like I was with them.

“Your handyman ain't afraid of those carpenter bees.”

“Yeah, I think he is. Let's ask.”

I called him over. He eyed the bees circling.

“Think you can handle this?” I looked at my handyman. Someone had to get that fence out of there so we could cut down the shrubs and get my picket fence in. "He says you can work around the bees."

“I hate bees.” He gave me a crooked smile and went back to the other side of the drive.

“Something wrong with him?” The beekeeper shook his head. “Never met a...”

“Can you help?” I cut him off mid sentence.

“I'll pull that old fence out if you like.”

Before I could answer he jerked out the two posts and the two rails and tossed them by the trash can. Then he bent over and grabbed the longer rail and held it out to me.

“Yep. Look at them holes.” He took a stick and poked in one of them. “Got that bee.”

The holes could not have been more precise if they had been drilled.

“Wow. That's amazing. Are there more bees in there?”

My fear was gone. This was pretty awesome.

He held the rail close to his ear then handed it to me.


The rail buzzed with activity. I wondered how many bees were still in there.

“They'll be out when it warms up a bit.” He dropped the rail back by the trash.

I was thrilled. The fence was out. I could trim back the shrubs myself now.

“Can I pay you for your time?” He didn't have to drive far from his house to mine, but I did cut into his morning.

“A few bucks for gas would be fine. Can't take your money for anything else.”

After he left my handyman and I made a quick run to Home Depot for caps for the fence posts. We stopped for burgers and drove home to eat in the driveway.

“I can see bees down there.” He was looking in his rear view mirror.

Just at that moment, the garbage men pulled up in their huge truck. They loaded my trash and started to leave.

“Did they take the fence rails?” I didn't want to turn around and look.

“No....wait, they just backed up."

“Are they taking it?” I couldn't believe my good fortune.

I did a quick spin in my seat to see them load the fence remains, bees and all, into the back of the truck and drive off.

“I can't believe that. It's all gone!” Then we both started to laugh so hard I almost snorted up my diet coke.

Scratch one bee in my bonnet! I spent the next hour cutting back the overgrowth, except for my lovely old rose bush.

The rest of my fence goes in next week. (The post after this on The Cottage In My Mind shows my fence.)


After, but still needs clearing.

1 comment:

  1. What a cute story. Glad no one was stung. DH didn't mind bees or wasps for that matter. He said if you don't bother them they won't bother you. The bees are all over my spiderwort and other flowers and even though I'm right there with my camera, they just flit to the next flower.

    Are you going to replace the fence?

    I bet it feels good to be pruning and clearing out things.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady