A Cautionary Tale of Exploding Bees: Don’t Try This at Home

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a domestic saga so unusual, at least in my experience, that I at once felt it warranted recording for posterity. It came from my friend (let’s call him Bill – not his real name because this is the Internet after all, and Tony didn’t give me permission to write about him) and concerns his neighbour’s house, especially the chimney. 

Tony, sorry, Bill had been nagging His neighbour (let’s just say he happens to be called Ben – co-incidence, huh?) to get his TV aerial fixed because it was loose and looked likely to come down. After several months Ben finally had his aerial looked at but Aerial Man wouldn’t do the job because just nearby, right in the top of Ben’s chimney was a bees’ nest. Oh dear. Time to postpone Aerial Man and send for the Bee Men. 

When the day came, Bee Man Senior left Bee Man Junior to it while he went to another job. Picture the scene. Rather than tackle the nest from the top of the chimney, Bee Man Junior (or “BMJ” as we shall call him) attacked the problem via the still-open fireplace in one of the bedrooms, having gained access to said fireplace by first moving a wardrobe. 

BMJ’s first move is to try to smoke the bees out (without killing them) so he sets off a “smoke bomb” in the fireplace. Unfortunately the chimney is so blocked by the bees and their home that the smoke won’t draw properly up the chimney. It therefore starts to fill the bedroom. 

The smoke does, however, mildly irritate a few of the bees and they start to fly down into the fireplace to investigate, or at the very least to complain at the intrusion. Fighting his way through the smoke, BMJ decides to see those few bees off properly by spraying insecticide into the fireplace. 

Big mistake. 

The spray is flammable and is immediately ignited by the heat from the still-active smoke bomb. Ka-flippin’-boom. 

The ensuing explosion rips upward and blows the nest, and most of its occupants, straight out. It also takes out part of the chimney pot, which crashes to the ground after first cracking a couple of Bill’s roof tiles. (The tale might have been all the more dramatic had the falling masonry narrowly missed a passing elderly pedestrian. Alas that was not the case and so I will have to await a more opportune moment to use the phrase “narrowly missed”.)

The explosion doesn’t confine itself, however, to upward; it also leaps out of the fireplace into the smoke-filled bedroom, scorching BMJ’s arm in the process. That, as they say, was not quite the intention. 

Householder Ben, who had been downstairs in the kitchen when shaken by the almighty thud, rushes upstairs half-expecting to find a corpse. The relief at finding BMJ injured but alive was, I am sure, palpable. (Note to self: check dictionary definition of “palpable” before publishing. I’m sure this is the type of context I’ve seen it used in, but what if everyone else is copying everyone else and nobody really knows what it means…?)

Once the relief (palpable or otherwise) fades, Ben is faced with the mess. Bill arrives, Bee Man Senior is summoned and soon returns. He is horrified; in part at his subordinate’s injury but largely, it seems, at the prospect of bad publicity for his company. 

First things first: BMS whisks BMJ off for medical attention. On his eventual return he is keen to avoid this little mishap being reported to those inconvenient health & safety people or similar authorities. A deal is struck involving a thorough clean-up of the bedroom, repair of the chimney (including the removal, sad to say, of several remaining bee corpses), replacement of the roof tiles and a liberal dose of “least said soonest mended”. 

With said repairs effected, nest traces and bee remains removed and, finally, TV aerial secured, tranquility has returned once again to Bill & Ben’s neighbourhood. Word has, I’m sure, spread amongst the bee population that if you try to nest in Ben’s chimney he’ll resort to military tactics to evict you, so don’t even bother. 

And the moral of the tale? Don’t spray aerosols near a fireplace – and if your chimney starts buzzing, head for the hills. 

Swarm

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