Monday, 25 July 2011

Bee swarm in the bedroom.

Last Wednesday I woke up to the buzz of a honeybee.

It was obviously agitated. I understood; I was agitated, too. I'm highly allergic to the fuzzy little things, and not happy to have it in bed with me.

My first instinct, which I followed, was to run screaming from the bedroom. Standing on the other side of the slammed door, I realized Lawrence wouldn't be home from work for hours. I needed to deal with this myself.

So, I gathered up my courage (which I'd thrown willy-nilly in my mad dash from the bedroom), slowly opened the door and snuck* back in.

The bee buzzed against the window glass. It terrified me, but I was determined to let it live. After all, bees are not wasps or hornets. They serve a purpose, are on the decline, and sole makers of wonderful sweet gooey goodness. So, I bravely reached past it, opened the window, and coaxed it out.

Man did I feel good about myself. I'd saved the life of a cute little brown bee. I'd conquered my fear. Go me!

In spite of my joy, I closed the window again, just in case it decided to return.

Adrenaline still tickling my heart, I went into the office to call my husband. He was proud of me. I rocked. I no sooner hung up—when I heard a sound I didn't like.


Another bee in the house.

Now I freaked.

All the windows in the house were closed. One stray bee I could understand, but two? That couldn't be good. I tore downstairs, tossed stuff out from under the sink, and scrounged for wasp spray. Yes, I know bees are good, but if I get stung I have to go to the hospital. My sympathy meter had dropped from happy, ecologically-friendly green to Danger-Danger-Will-Robinson orange.

I took the spray into the office, pointed at the bee, told it I was sorry, and sprayed. It fell, made a few small sounds, and then went silent.

I felt bad.

Until I heard the buzzzzzzzz.

I followed the sound to the bedroom. Ack!! There were two more bees flying around. But, all the windows were CLOSED. Where were they coming from??

I panicked. I sprayed. I felt bad.

Some little voice inside of me said: If there are more bees, and you get stung and have to call the paramedics, you better be dressed.

Right. I should take a shower, get dressed . . . and probably walk around the outside of the house to make sure there weren't any swarms nearby. Apparently bees swarm in the early summer, and we'd had some "strange weather" lately. ("Strange weather," according to the locals, is the cause of many weird and wonderful events.)

I got in the shower, turned on the water then thought: What if bees come in through the exhaust fan and drop on my head? I got out of the shower, turned on the fan to blow them away, got back in the shower and scrubbed as fast as I could.

Minutes later, I rushed back into the bedroom to get dressed-–and stopped dead in my tracks. There were LOTS of bees: flying around the window, crawling on my pillow, crawling on the dresser, walking all over each other on the carpet. I screamed, slammed the door and stood there in my towel, dripping wet.

Panic: pure, no-freaking-idea-what-to-do panic. My sympathy meter was now flaming, blinking, OMG, neon red. I grabbed the bug spray, opened the door, sprayed blindly into the room, and slammed the door again.

My clothes and handbag (complete with keys) were in the bedroom--with the bees, and enough bug spray to kill an elephant.

The buzzing grew louder.

I dialed 999. (The equivalent of 911 in the USA.)

The nice police lady told me there was nothing they could do. She suggested I go to the neighbors and call an exterminator.

I felt bad for calling.

I hung up. Still dripping. Wondering if Dave and Sue next door would mind me dripping on their carpet while I searched the Yellow Pages for an exterminator?

Underwear. At least put on some underwear.

I grabbed my underwear, doused them with hot water and shampoo in the bathroom sink, and squeezed them out in a towel. There, clean underwear. Except they smelled like sweet tangerine. Would that attract a honeybee? Would I smell like a fruit blossom dinner? Would they cover me like the "bee guy" at the circus?

Common sense knocked inside my skull: Hello? Yesterday's clothes are in the hamper. Why don't you get dressed in something dry? The scent of yesterday's sweat should be a deterrent to any hungry bees.

Right. I dug yesterday's clothes from the laundry hamper, got dressed, and put on some sturdy shoes. A sigh of relief. Now, who to call?

I tip-toed into the office and Googled: bees Faversham swarm help.

Wow. Apparently pests are big business. I had my choice. I called the first one with pictures of bees on their website. (Lots of them had pictures of rats and cockroaches--gross.)

I talked to a guy who said he was too busy to come over, but I could call the local Faversham beekeeper. He gave me Bill's mobile (cell) number. I called. Bill said sit tight, he'd be there in 30 minutes.

Right. 30 minutes. 30 minutes to walk around the house and listen for bees. I carried my trusty spray can everywhere as I looked for bees on walls, on the floor, behind doors. I unplugged everything so I could hear better. (Did you know the hum of the toothbrush charger sounds like a bee?)

Bill finally came. He had equipment. Professional beekeeping equipment. Cool. First thing, he went into the bedroom.

Lots of dead bees.

I felt bad.

He picked some up, looked at them with his beekeeper eye. Said: "Yes, worker honeybees. There should be a queen somewhere."

He poked around the room. Checked the window—it was still closed. (The bees hadn't managed to get it open.) Then he looked in the loft (attic) with his special bee light. Then he looked outside with his super-duper bee-spotter binoculars.

No bees anywhere. No swarm.


He came back to the bedroom. MORE LIVE BEES buzzing around the room, darting frantically over the dead bees.  Where were the flippin' things coming from???

Bill saw me freaking. He killed the bees.

I blinked.

"Aren't bees endangered or something?" I asked, nonchalantly hiding the bug spray behind my back. "I thought it was bad to kill them."

"You said you were allergic. Be sensible. Sometimes you have to kill a couple when they swarm. You don't want to end up in hospital."

I felt better.

Bill went to his truck and brought back a fancy little camera on the end of a long nozzle thingy with a tiny light on it. High tech. I was impressed. He pushed it up through the ceiling of the bedroom where the heating pipes come down to the radiator. He watched for a while. No bees.


He went back outside, watched through his binoculars some more. Came back to the bedroom--found another live bee buzzing around. He killed it. 


Bill put his camera away. Took his binoculars back to the truck. He shrugged his shoulders. "Strange isn't it?"

At this point it looked like he was getting ready to leave. Leave me alone with a bedroom full of dead bees and no promise there wouldn't be more the next time I opened the door.

"Did you have the window open during the night?" he asked.

"No. We closed all the windows when it started to rain yesterday."


"Well, it's cold now, and the clouds are making it dark. It'll probably rain for the rest of the day. You can't track bees when it's like this. I'll come back tomorrow if it warms up and the sun is out."


I started to cry.

Bill felt bad.

"I'll check one more time." Bill went into the bedroom. All the bees were dead, and for the first time that day, there were no new ones. "Strange, isn't it?" he said again.

I followed him to the front door.

"I'll be back tomorrow."

"What do I do in the meantime?" I was trying not to cry again, but I still sounded pretty pathetic.

"Have your husband tape around those pipes in the ceiling. Don't sleep in the bedroom tonight. I'll be back tomorrow."

"But you said there weren't any bees in the attic or coming through the space around the pipes."

"Strange, isn't it?"

Bill left.

I cried.

When Lawrence came home I made him go into the bedroom. He cleaned up all the dead bees and filled in the spaces around the pipes with expanding foam, then left the room and shut the door.

He was not a happy bunny. I couldn't blame him. It was his birthday. We'd planned a special dinner with cake, and then a trip to see Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Pt2. Needless to say, no dinner, no cake, and I was in no mood to go to the movies. We ordered pizza, filled up the air mattress and camped out in the living room.

I dreamt about bees.

In my dream they followed me around like pets. They even flew in this really cool formation. In my dream I wasn't afraid of them. Weird.

Bill came the next morning and we cracked open the bedroom door, to find a peaceful, albeit pesticide-smelling room. No bees anywhere.


"Strange, isn't it?" Bill asked for the tenth time since I'd met him.

"Where did they come from?" I was mad now. (Irrational, yes, but I'd left rational on my pillow yesterday morning when I woke with a bee in my bed.)

Bill stepped outside and he pointed to a place on the roof. He'd seen a stray bee repeatedly land in the same spot, take off, then come back again. (Probably the original bee I'd saved and shooed out of the house.)

"I think what happened," Bill said, "is this: A swarm flew by. The queen and her followers stopped on the roof--right there where the bees still smell her pheromone. Your window was open. A group of them flew in scouting for a place to live. It started raining; they huddled in the nice warm bedroom. You came in and shut the window. The queen and the swarm moved on. Next morning, the sun shines, it's warm, and the scouts wake up."

"So, you think we had a whole bunch of them, snuggled behind the dresser--all night long??? While we were sleeping??? Sleeping in a room full of bees????"

"Strange, isn't it?"

We spent three days doing laundry: All the pesticide covered bedding and some clothes on top of the dresser that got blitzed with the bug spray. We camped out in the living room until it was all scrubbed down. Seriously, there was pesticide residue everywhere. (I kinda went nutso with the bug spray that second time.) (Oh, and we need to wash the curtains, too. The first bee did a little dance before I let it outside. Apparently he left a message for any other roaming bees: Great place to stop for the night. So, if we want to keep new bees out, we need to obliterate the blinking arrows pointing to our window.)

Bytheway, we did finally get to see Harry Potter . . . and have cake!

* Snuck is my Americanism showing through. Hubby says it should be sneaked–his British stuffedshirtism. OMG did I just use a footnote? Robin** you bad girl—get out of my head. LOL!

**Robin McKinley: the queen of out-of-control footnotes. Oh, and speaking of weird infestations due to British weather, check out Robin's blog for her experience with bats!

Bee picture is from the Royal Horticultural Society. See their article on Swarming bees in the UK.


  1. * to really horrify him - your personal irregular verb from childhood "reach - retch - roach" ;D

  2. Oh my god, that is TERRIFYING! And I love how you said you'd left "rational on the pillow yesterday morning".... I guess so. How could you not?

  3. @Julia: It was very scary. Looking back is kinda funny - but at the time, I was a total mess. Thanks for commenting! x

  4. I just followed you on on Twitter, but if this is an example of your blog, I'll have to follow this, too. That's a great story! Glad you're okay.

  5. @Marlene: Thanks for the follow! It's been a warm summer, especially since I've been a bit chicken to open the windows wide upstairs. :P I'm working to a deadline right now, so the blog posts are a bit scarce. Do plan to crank it up for the pre-holiday fun in November, though, so stay tuned. x

  6. We had a swarm in our nieghbour's hedge once, the noise was amazing.

    I was holing for a lot of castle blogs, but the bee one is fascinating!!! :)

    Come on up to Norfolk, we have lots of castles!

  7. For "holing" read "hoping" :)

  8. @Glynn: Yeah, that hummmmm is like nothing else.

    The blog is just getting started. The main purpose is two-fold:

    (1) To give all my friends outside the UK a taste of England.

    (2) To be a resource for Fantasy Readers/Writers.

    At least that's the plan. We shall see if it lives up to its lofty goals. ;)

    We do hope to visit Norfolk. I'll be sure to contact you for advice when we do.