Thursday, September 5, 2013

Of Hummingbirds and Yellowjackets

Yellowjackets?  Did you say yellowjackets?  Yes I did.
I was out on my patio just minding my own business, examining my flower beds around the deck, when I decided to reach for my little hoe, the one that was leaning up against the wall near the sliding glass door, and do a little weeding.  As I reached for it, Oh, NO!  There was enormous, busy-bee activity around the base of my potted yucca plant! 

Carefully, I leaned in a little closer to get a better look.  I could see flying, yellow-and-black striped things landing on the plant and then disappearing into a tunnel in the potted dirt alongside the trunk of the yucca.  This is not good.

My first reaction was bees - honey bees or Africanized honey bees.  And they're just two feet from my back door and right next to my usual path out that door.  Well, crud!

I logged into Google and searched for more information about eradicating them or getting them moved.  In that process I came across a company with an office in the Houston area that specializes in bee removal, so I put a call in to them.

Well, in the meantime, I stepped back outside and noticed that the flying, buzzing things were getting a little agitated by my presence.  This didn't seem right for honey bees, but might be right if they're Africanized bees.  I picked up my hoe and started to work on the bed between the patio and the deck when I suddenly felt a sharp pain on the back of my thigh.  Ouch!!  I turned around and looked, and there was one of those suckers...stinging me!  I swatted it away and ran back into the house.  Damn, but that hurts!

This is not good...I'm in and out of that door regularly.  I can't have these insects harassing me or my family.  I really need to get that potted plant further away from the house, because who knows how long it will take for that bee removal company to call me back.

So I had the bright idea to suit up in full motorcycle gear - boots, riding pants, armored jacket, helmet, gloves - and try to move that plant to the far edge of the patio, away from the door.  I made sure the jacket collar was tucked up snugly under the bottom edge of my helmet and the gloves tucked into the cuffs of the jacket, with the jacket cuffs cinched up tightly.  I felt ridiculous.  I probably looked ridiculous.  It was, after all, close to 100 degrees out there. 

Grabbing the hoe, I tried to hook it around the potted plant and start pulling it away from the house.  I ended up sort of scooching it and pushing it toward the patio edge.  The flying, buzzing things went nuts!!

I managed to get the pot to the edge and then dropped the hoe and ran around to the side of the house, away from the swarm of angry buzzing things. There I stood, in full heavy motorcycle gear, the sweat running down my face and trickling down my back, as I peeked around the corner of the house and watched the swarm of angry flying, buzzing things fill the patio area.  I stood there, sweating and cursing myself for not having the foresight to unlock the front door. 

Now I had no choice but to wait it out.  There was no way I could get in the sliding glass door without bringing a horde of angry flying, buzzing things into the house with me. 

I gradually eased around the corner of the house, back toward the deck, and then moved to the corner of the deck that was furthest from the patio.  It's the corner where the hummingbird feeder hangs on a bishops crook pole.  I was standing right under it. 

Even through the motorcycle helmet I could hear the buzzing coming from the swarm.  Then I heard a different kind of buzz, more of a deeper, thrumming hum.  It passed right next to my head and into my field of vision.  It was a lovely hummingbird, just inches from my face!  It landed on the rail of the feeder - right in front of my eyes - and began to lap the nectar.  It was so close I could see its tiny throat moving as it lapped, see its tiny, rapid swallows.   It paused for a few moments and turned to look right at me, a micro-second that seemed like eternity.  Then it turned back for another long, deep drink.

I was mesmerized.  The flying, buzzing things on my patio and the suffocating heat inside of the motorcycle helmet and jacket were momentarily forgotten as I wondered at this tiny little living being, drinking my nectar from my feeder, so close to my face that I could see the minute and fine detail of its feathers, the glowing coppery-red of its throat, the tiny ear holes, the ridges on its long beak.

And then the hummer flew away and I was left wondering how the heck I was going to get back into my own house.  Totally drenched in sweat and suffocating in the helmet, I waited for what looked like a slight lull in the buzzing activity and made a run for the door, edged it open a crack, and, waving my arms and legs wildly to discourage any of those buzzing things from getting too close, I squeezed inside.

Later, as I watched these flying, buzzing things beating themselves against the windows and slider, I could get a good look at them and determine that they were not bees, but were, in fact, yellowjackets.  this made sense now, given their subterranean nest in my potted yucca plant.

The bee guy did finally call me back and I am now on his schedule.


  1. OMG. You m'lady are a brave woman. And using your motorcycle gear was a smart thing to do. Genius level. Overcome, adapt, improvise.

    I am glad it worked out to get them away from the patio and that the hummingbird could bring a bit of beauty into a stressful situation.