Friday afternoon, I came home to hear that Harper has a job. PopPop hired him to kill carpenter bees at the rate of twenty-five cents a bee. I have no doubt that Harper’s eyes registered “ka–ching!” when he looked at all the carpenter bees buzzing around the house. With enough sunny days and the right equipment, he could retire before he gets to first grade.
Carpenter bees are big, slow, and clumsy like bumblebees. They drill into wood to lay their eggs. For us, that means they drill into the log siding of our house. The solid Southern yellow pine logs of the main structure of the house are too hard for them, but they do take to the parts of the house with just log siding. If we had realized this when we built the house, we would have probably bought the more expensive yellow pine siding. (I say “probably” because anyone who has built a house knows what “ka-ching!” sounds like!”) As it is, we have carpenter bees drilling little holes in all the most inaccessible reaches of the house. The prescribed method of dealing with them is to hand-fill each and every hole with wood putty. Um….right.
Over the years PopPop has used a variety of methods to thin the population, but the most basic weapon in his arsenal is the tennis racquet. A racquet has a wide surface area for striking the buzzing nuisance and the strings provide a melodious “boing!” when said nuisance makes its final flight across the yard. So, Friday night, armed with a racquet and advice on how to wield it, Harper busily swooshed the air while John prepared the grill for our first burgers of the season. By dinnertime, Harper had earned a dollar. One of the bees was done in by the racquet, the other three were unceremoniously stepped on while rolling around on the driveway.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, I had the bug-zapper at hand for zapping wasps that sneak into the kitchen. We never know how they get in, but with the security of the bug-zapper we no longer have to scream for John to come save us. (I do not trust the accuracy of my aim to attempt to swat and anger any critter that could send me to the emergency room.) The bug-zapper looks like a tennis racquet but the strings are metal and it runs on batteries. With a mere touch of the electrified racquet, the bug is stunned, if not absolutely fried. For large critters, we hold the racquet over the bug until it smokes. Then we’re sure it’s dead.
The first bug-zapper I bought was from Wal-Mart. That one died when John tried to use it on a carpenter bee. Carpenter bees are too tough for the bug-zapper, so John swatted the bug-zapper against the house as though it were a real tennis racquet. Alas, it was not. Since then, we’ve gotten our zappers from Harbor Freight Tools. They last a long time if you don’t smack them against the side of the house.
When John gets “serious”about attacking the carpenter bees, he resorts to bigger weapons than a tennis racquet. A a warm, sunny spring day may find John in the backyard with the Shop-Vac. At the end of the hose is taped a section of PVC pipe and the end of the pipe has a funnel attached to it. John can be seen stabbing the air to suck up carpenter bees. The view from the kitchen window is anything but serious as the bees are not visible and all one can see is John stabbing the air with an odd-looking vacuum hose.
When Harper gets a little taller he may find greater financial success in using the Shop-Vac method of bee removal. After a few more years of apprenticeship with PopPop, he may even come up with his own clever method. In the meantime, he can leap and bounce and swing and swirl to his heart’s content, and earn some treat money while he does it.