When Life Gives You Bees

            A handful of times over several months, bees would slip into my kitchen when I opened the backdoor. Somehow, in all that time, it never occurred to me to wonder why.

One morning, I went into the backyard to use the hose by the back door and found the yard flooded with dozens of bees, harvesting pollen from the scarce weeds that survived into January. Worse, they seemed to congregate around one particular spot on the wall. My mouth went dry. As gently as I could, I sneaked over to see what fascinated them on the side of my house. There I saw a hole—drilled to allow wires to pass through—left just enough space for one or two bees at a time to go into the wall.

            I tripped over my feet, nearly falling as I hurried to the bee-free part of the yard, calculating where the other side of that wall was—my bedroom.

            Bees are fine, necessary for the environment, and all-around wonderful insects, right? That doesn’t mean I want them in my bedroom wall. I don’t want any bugs in my house since I’m allergic to nearly every kind that’s ever bitten or stung me. I had never been stung by a bee, but I wasn’t looking to find out if I had a reaction.

            After several minutes of panicking, I realized I had to tell someone. Calling my landlord gave me a way to pay for the service if I found someone to deal with it. I couldn’t hire an exterminator. Bees are crucial, after all. But I didn’t know who else to call.

            My gracious mother searched online and found a local beekeeper willing to haul swarms and hives out of places they shouldn’t be—like my wall. I had hope. The bees would be gone and not killed. Win-win. Only, when the Beekeeper showed, I learned the problem was more extensive than I could have imagined.

            “Based on the heat signature,” he said, “I’d estimate about five thousand. They’ve probably been building this hive for a few years.”

            “Years?” My throat tightened.

            “Two to three, I would guess.”

            I nodded, wanting to appear calm. But the one thought cycling through my head was, “I’ve been sharing a room with thousands of bees for two to three years?”

            The Beekeeper went on, seemingly oblivious to my internal meltdown. “We can get them out, but going through the brick wall might cause structural damage to the house. Plus, we can’t fix the wall after. You’ll be responsible for that when we’re done.”

            “Is there any other way to get them out?”

            “I recommend going through the inside wall. We’ve had to do it before.”

            I had to steady myself. They were going to crack open my bedroom wall and loose a swarm of pissed-off bees into our house. Rationally, I knew they were professionals with smoke and suits and all the know-how to pull this off. But that didn’t change my mental image of thousands of bees flooding my home and stinging me and all my pets to death. Never mind that this particular hive was pretty docile. They hadn’t stung any of my dogs, who spent lots of time in the backyard. And they hadn’t bothered us while looking at the hole in the wall either.

            “We’ll give you guys some time to empty the room. Call us when you’re ready, and we’ll take care of it.” The Beekeeper smiled and shook my hand.

            I didn’t want to step foot in my room. All I could think about was tiny insect legs crawling all over the other side of the drywall. A few centimeters of plaster and paint was all that stopped thousands of bees from pouring inside.

            My family helped as much as possible, working quickly and moving things out of my room. But it still took days to relocate to a spare bedroom. That meant several nights not sleeping, imagining I could suddenly hear the thrum of their wings. I prayed for another solution, begging for another way out of this situation.

            “I can’t do this,” I whispered through tears. “God, I can’t handle this.”

            What answered wasn’t a voice but a feeling, saying, “Don’t be afraid. You can trust me.”

            A week or so later, removal day finally came. The Beekeeper and his sons sealed the air vent and blocked under the door so no bees could escape into the rest of the house. The hive they removed in sections, passing the honeycomb and temporary housing out the window. Within a few hours, all that was left was a hole in the wall, several dozen dead bees who hadn’t made the trip, and the pungent combination of smoke and bug spray.

            “We found the queen pretty easily,” The Beekeeper said while his kids finished packing their truck. “After that, everything went pretty smoothly. It wasn’t as spread out as I thought.”

            I nodded. “That’s good.”

            “Their hive was right under the electrical box. I think they were attracted to the heat.”

            “Oh, that makes sense. What will you do with them?”

            “We’ll set them up in a new hive. As long as the queen is there, the rest will adjust quickly.”

            Knowing these bees would have a good life eased the gnawing in my stomach a bit. But my room was still a mess. The worst problem was the massive hole, about six feet high and three feet wide. Plus, there was the hole outside where stragglers out foraging would come in looking for the hive.

            I glued a mesh covering over the outside hole. The inside one required more expertise. Fortunately, my father used to do that for a living. I helped him fill the gap, and soon enough, it looked like a room again. Well, almost.

            Even aside from the drywall corner, the room needed paint. The walls were lime green, faded to a putrid color after several decades. The color choice came from the previous occupants’ previous occupants. I always meant to paint it a color I liked—make the room feel like mine—but never got around to it.

            When I went to look at paint colors, I fell in love with this light cream that had a hint of peach. When I saw the name—chai tea, my favorite drink—I knew it was for me.

            I started painting immediately, blasting my favorite music while dancing like a fool. I ignored the weird looks from my neighbors, who could see in without the curtains. When I finished painting a few days later, it felt like a different room. The intrusive presence of the bees and the lingering influence of people long gone; none of that remained. This was my room. And it felt like, well, me.

            I replaced some furniture, too. When I finally moved back in, I had a room decorated how I wanted for the first time since I was a child. It suited me, the current me. My bedroom was now my sanctuary.

            It shouldn’t have taken a hive of bees living in my wall to make my comfort in my own home a priority. But I always had excuses. I don’t have time. It’s not important. I can’t afford it. Looking back, I know the truth. I didn’t think I deserved a nice bedroom. Who was I to act so entitled? I should be grateful I have a home at all! The bees taught me that I am worth more. God didn’t intend humans, or even insects, to just subsist. They deserved a better space to live, and so did I. I like to think we’re all better off now.

            And the funny thing is, I never got stung.

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