Buzz Buzz Buzz
Great moments in building history: What could be sweeter?
Back in the early 1980s, I installed trim in a lot of apartment buildings. I cut more wood than I care to remember, but one thing I can’t forget is the noise of my 15-in. chopsaw echoing off the concrete flooring inside those apartment units. On some jobs, I’d be inside the same building for three days cutting closet parts for 250 apartments.
The reason I can’t forget the noise is because my ears still ring. I’ve got tinnitus: constant ringing in my ears. I think that’s why I never heard the bees in my range vent.
I first noticed bees shortly after I moved into my house, just a few in the kitchen. I wondered where they were coming from, but I couldn’t be sure. Outside, they seemed to be congregating on the roof, next to the stucco on the gable end. And they were flying around the vent cap from my range hood, too. Being a carpenter, I figured I could fix anything. So one morning, before the bees awoke, I went up there with a can of Raid. I didn’t see another bee—at least not for several years.
About four years later, the same thing happened: a couple of bees flying around the kitchen, and this time, several dead ones, too, on the windowsills between the double-hung sash. I took a look up on the roof again, and sure enough, bees were flying around the same two places. They seemed particularly interested in the stucco, right where a patch of sun warmed the shingles, the flashing, and the stucco wall. I figured they must be getting in behind that stucco somewhere, yet for the life of me, I couldn’t find a hole. I sprayed the heck out of the entire area anyway. Goodbye bees. Or so I thought. That was three years ago.
Last month, the honey started to appear on my stove. I never put two and two together. After all, I hadn’t seen a bee in the house in years. My first thought was to look in the cabinet above the stove. Sure enough, standing right next to the 12-in. vent pipe was a jar of honey I’d been storing since I bought the house in 1994. The jar sat in a small tight ring of honey. If I’d just thought about it for a minute, I would have realized there was less honey on that shelf than there was on the stove, but the thought never crossed my mind—at least not until the next morning, when I found even more honey on the stove. The next morning, honey was dripping down the wall behind the stove, too. That’s when I finally figured out I had a problem and called a specialist.
The guy who came out was almost sad when he found the hive. “I’ll have to kill them all,” he cried down to me through his bee suit. I wondered why he hadn’t found another line of work. Two days later, after the bees were no more, he came back. He said we’d probably have to pull the pipe out, which didn’t thrill me any. That area of the attic had no access.
We pulled off the cap and the fan, and I had my first look: a hive about 8 in. long, hanging from the edge of the pipe.
“Oh, look,” I said, “it’s right there. All you have to do is—”
“Oh no, that’s not the hive. That hive couldn’t produce anywhere near enough honey,” the bee man said. Then he shined his light down the pipe. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the pipe, foot by foot, I saw the whole thing was a hive, clear down to the baffle.
Now I’ve got a new vent pipe for my range hood. The hood draws even a whiff of smoke off my cooktop, and I’ve got great attic access, too. What could be sweeter?
Drawing by: Jackie Rogers