August 4, 2015

My war with the honeybees has, for better or for worse, come hell of high (or in this case, low) water, entered its final phase. Go on the internet and it turns out honeybees and swimming pools go together like Hillary Clinton and scandal, or Speaker John Boehner and girly-man weeping. I mean, turns out it’s damned common, enough to make me wonder why we haven’t had this problem before in the nearly-dozen years we’ve been here.

It’s been about a month since the honeybees really became a nuisance, the kind of nuisance where you really can’t swim until after dark. I kinda hoped they’d just leave after I caulked that crook between the rock and the pool water they loved to frequent, but all they did was move to the fountain area. I shut off the fountain, shut off the filter, then had the pool drained a good two feet. The bees didn’t care. Rather than hanging around the fountain they just moved their activity to the water level below the fountain and continued to do their bee thing.

First, a word about honeybee behavior. After consulting my pest control and pool guys – both of which have seen it all – they confirmed what just about every other source I consulted on the internet said: I had to convince the bees that my pool was no longer an option and send them looking for another water source. Turns out honeybees can have a hive up to two miles away, and once they garf onto a water source that’s where they’re gonna stay until convinced otherwise. You can’t get rid of them (and you really don’t want to because of their value to the ecosystem); you can only send them elsewhere. Upon which the next person will have to send them elsewhere, and so on and so on. And then you have to hope they don’t have long memories and come back to your place and start the cycle all over again.

I had little choice, then, but to initiate the radical approach of poolus interruptus: putting the pool season on hold and shutting the pool down completely. Clearly, I was going to have to eliminate the bees access to my pool water, so that meant either draining the pool completely, or covering it with plastic for a couple of weeks. I probably should have done the former, but I chose the latter.

Anticipating what would happen in standing water warmed even hotter by being covered with plastic, I dumped four gallons of liquid chlorine in the water that remained. I then headed to the local ACE hardware and bought a bunch of large plastic drop cloths and two rolls of heavy utility duct tape some and then, slowly and painstakingly, with the help of my able-bodied sister-in-law Tam (who did such a great job helping out on last year’s Tiki bar deck project) proceeded to lay plastic across the pool, one section after another.

It was miserably hot and humid last Friday when we began; the temperature was near 110 and sweat poured out of us as if from a faucet. We had just finished measuring and taping down the first section of plastic when I noticed a thunderstorm gathering to our southeast, but it looked as if it were sliding to our east and north. We had just gotten the first two sections down when a large gust of wind came up and blew both sections all to hell. Lesson learned: from then on out I wouldn’t just tape the plastic to the pool deck but also put a second layer on both the tape and the deck. I also used the solar cover the previous owners used to use in the fall to keep the pool season going a little longer since it provided great coverage, and this is what we came up with:

What did the bees do? Well, just as the pest control people predicted, they kind of freaked out at the beginning. Being creatures of habit and totally OCD when it comes to their daily routine, they didn’t know what to think. They just kept buzzing around looking for any entryway to water they could find.

Saturday was a good day – it looked as if the solution was going to work. The bee activity dropped off quite a bit.

Sunday was a disaster. They were back in a huge way, lounging around a large puddle that had gathered in the middle of the pool from the plastic sagging from the weight of the pool cover on top of the relatively thin drop cloth plastic material.

I was beside myself. If I could have drained my pool right then and there I would have. If I could have sold the house I would have then and there. A nice apartment in Palm Springs next to a golf course with a driving range, preferably.

Monday was a better day. Less bee activity because the standing water on top of the plastic had evaporated overnight. The bees were back to their confused state and less in number. Sitting under the happy pineapple lights I contemplated my mortality, the bees mortality, and the evolutionary edge they had over a dumb human such as I. It was then I noticed I still had one drop cloth I hadn’t used. I knew the secret to eliminating the bees: one more layer on top of the area where the standing water had appeared. So today I was back out there. I moved the blue solar cover over a smidge and taped another layer of drop cloth on top of what was already there. At least for now there was no more standing water.

I also decided that the old adage that in order to make an omelet you had to break a few eggs applied in this case. Until now I had resisted killing any bees, but all my sources said that in addition to eliminating the water source I had to send a message by eliminating the bees sent to test the area out and bring their info back to the hive. I mixed a solution of a 1/4 cup of dishwashing liquid and water in a spray bottle and started attacking the bees that were buzzing around. I felt like a World War II RAF pilot picking off Messerschmidts over the Channel: the bees would come in and I’d start spraying, accounting for wind and direction. Some fell to the plastic and died almost instantly, others limped off to die. I wish I didn’t have to do it but believe me, there are thousands upon thousands where they came from. And once you start killing, it’s pretty easy to take out as many as you can.

I didn’t kill every bee I saw: there was a bee stuck under the plastic, pathetically buzzing away trying to find its way out. And I could have left him there to die a long and lonely death under the plastic. But I didn’t – I laid down on the deck and ever-so-carefully picked up the plastic sheeting so he could find his way out. As he flew away, I told him not to come back again and tell his bee friends to do likewise. And that if he comes back again tomorrow I won’t “bee” so compassionate.

So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. If this doesn’t work I’m just gonna bite the bullet and drain the pool for a couple of weeks. And if they still come back there’s not much else I can do. At least by then the pool season will be winding down anyways.

Post title hat tip: The Bitch Boys

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:28 | Comments (0)
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