I'm sure you've heard the old idioms for years, "Ants in your pants," "Bats in your belfry," or "Bee in your bonnet," and such; well, how about this when my phone rang...?
"Jim, this is Karen Kassy."
"Oh, howdy Dear Heart," I answered, "what's going on?"
"I have something strange going on in my love seat."
Now a guy can have all kinds of fun with that opener, playing around with the birds and bees, risky as it is, and Karen's a great one to kid around with; after all, I've known her for years, and she's an intuitive - but I didn't want to end up in the dog house, so I thought I'd best play it straight as a string.
"So what's wrong with your love seat," I asked, stifling a laugh, but knowing full well I should keep it on the straight and narrow.
"I keep hearing a buzzing sound in the back," she said, ignoring my goofy sense of humor, "but I can't see anything that would make that noise, and I'm afraid of getting stung or bitten."
I wasn't going to let her get my goat, so we set a day and a time, agreeing to meet on her front porch so I could look at her love seat to see why it was buzzing. Last Thursday morning I tipped it against the front wall, put my Central Oregon Audiology hearing instruments on the bird-call setting and got down for a closer examination.
"I think it's bees," Karen said.
"Can't be bees," I said, "there's no way for them to get in."
"I'm an Intuitive, and I think it's bees," Karen repeated.
When I bent down to listen, sure enough... I could hear something buzzing! "Son of a gun!" I exclaimed, "Your love seat is buzzing!"
Taking out my trusty USAF mini Swiss Army Knife (a birthday gift from my two Air Force sons), I opened the sharp blade and began to carefully slice the back of the love seat open, asking Karen, "How far can I go...?"
In a few moments, the back was open far enough to reveal a pile of cushioning material about the size of a softball that I surmised had once been a mouse nest.
"I can really hear them now!" Karen exclaimed, back peddling.
The buzzing sound was definitely coming from that large clump of upholstery, and it sounded like bees, not domestic honey bees, but some other kind. As I reached for the cotton-like stuffing, a very beautiful, yellow and black bumblebee went whizzing by my face. The cat was out of the bag, it was Bombus lapponicus.
"A bumblebee!" Karen exclaimed further retreating. I thought she was going to have a cow when she asked, "What are you going to do?"
Bumblebees are vitally important pollinators, therefore, we didn't want to shoot ourselves in the foot by destroying them. Carefully lifting the bumblebee's old mouse-nest home and looking at it closely revealed about 10 cells with brood (babies) and about the same number stuffed full of nectar, food for young bees. A few adult bees were buzzing around my face, but from the sound I didn't think they were in the attack mode - and then I saw her! The queen...
What a gigantic bee! She is three times the size of her workers! And while I was watching, she slowly backed into one of the open cells and laid an egg. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I'd witness a bumblebee queen laying an egg! But there she was, doing it while I was holding her home in my hand, and in living color! Incidentally, only one worker (a female) will mate and survive the winter; in spring she will become the new queen and begin laying eggs for her summertime colony.
One bee landed on the back of my hand and I was between a rock and a hard place wondering whether to let it stay or chase it off. I have never been stung by a bumblebee and wondered what it would be like, so I let it stay. The bee, on the other hand, had different fish to fry and flew off without stinging me. I was both relieved and sorry, but I chickened out and I put on my bee veil and white shirt before I moved the bees out of their love seat.
It took some searching, but we finally found the correct furniture in which to place the bee's home: a cinder block and a nice chunk of 2x6 cedar. We set the block on its side with the openings horizontal, up against bricks, placed the bee house inside one of the holes, and then put the 2x6 against it, leaving a gap for the bees to fly in and out.
Most bumblebees live in old underground rodent burrows (not usually in love seats), probably making themselves at home in the rodent's grassy nest. All across North America bumble bees are dropping like flies, and, unfortunately, no one fully understands why. Bumblebees are vital to pollination, so everything we can do to keep their population happy and healthy will be a benefit to mankind and all of Nature.
So take the bull by the horns, Dear Readers, and do all you can to save our bumblebees and other native pollinators. This is straight from the horse's mouth, Good People, Old Mother Nature needs all the help she can get.