Killer Instinct

I’m not a hunter. And, as your typical non-hunter, I pride myself in not killing anything that’s alive. Living in peaceful harmony with all the creatures of the Earth.  I could never hunt animals to kill them.

Rubbing my bottom raw on bouncy safari vehicles, ducking under low-hanging acacia branches, in dogged pursuit of any living thing to get in front of my camera? Yes. But kill an animal? No. Never.


Except, it turns out, when my home and hearth are attacked. 

Then I develop a killer instinct like nothing else. If you get squeamish about gory murder scenes, then you might not want to read on.

It was like that when the deer in Raleigh would eat all my daylilies the very morning their blossoms were bound to open, and it is like that now as I see my house literally riddled with holes by a swarm of vicious carpenter bees.

Yes, bees.

Never in my life had I heard of carpenter bees. True to their name, they get busy working on your house, wherever you might be so foolish as to have any wooden structure. With some drill- or saw-like instrument – not sure if it’s their legs or their mouth – they are experts at manufacturing holes and tunnels big enough to lay their eggs in, busily converting our expensive real estate to dust.

Dust, I’m telling you.

carpenter bee
Carpenter bee on the attack
There was nothing I could do about the deer back then, other than fuming the entire daylily flowering season and grumbling my disgusts to anyone who would listen. I didn’t own a gun I could have done anything stupid with – though trust me, I felt like it – and I like to think that the very real problem of getting rid of a deer carcass would have awakened my practical instincts in time to prevent the murder. 
I’ve had enough trouble getting rid of carcasses of smaller creatures dragged to the doorstep by our cat.

I tried many remedies back then. Like spreading fox urine, for instance. But let me tell you the problem with fox urine: inevitably you get it on your hands or shoes while splattering it around, and then you have to live as a social outcast for quite some time. No one wants anything to do with a person smelling of fox urine.

I also tried mothballs, but the deer didn’t seem to mind them much. All I’d get was a whiff of my grandparents’ closet every time I went outside. I tried CDs tied to strings to somehow scare them with the reflection, I tried human hair from whenever I gave the boys a buzz-cut, I tried Cayenne pepper, and I tried all sorts of expensive sprays from the garden center, none of which, in the end, really worked. The only partial success I could claim came from taking a bar of Irish Spring soap, shredding it with my food processor attachment for grating carrots, and spreading it over and around the flowerbed in question. I can’t remember who gave me this remedy, but it absolutely HAD to be Irish Spring, I was told. Somehow the smell of it was so overpowering that the deer couldn’t smell the flowers anymore and failed to find them. It just didn’t make for a very pretty looking flowerbed, what with all the green and white sprinkles all over it, and I have no idea what it did to the soil. It better welcomed some alkalinity! I remember Noisette giving me very strange looks whenever I’d be making new supplies of soap shavings in my kitchen, and I’d always give him one of those “don’t ask” looks back.

But about those bees. Unlike the deer, they were causing some real problems. First of all, anybody approaching our front door invariably suffered from panic attacks when dive-bombed by those bees – they are big and fat, they are incredibly loud, and they fly in such an erratic way that you really can’t predict their path to get out of the way. Our kids were constantly bumping into them. And one of them has a real phobia of insects in general, let alone ones that sting.

The other problem were the holes. Big, perfectly circular holes, as if drilled with a precision tool. In fact, it took me a while to realize that these weren’t in fact holes made by human hands when putting together those wood columns. There were way more holes than might be needed for a reasonable amount of screws. 

And the sawdust was a dead giveaway.

Yes, sawdust. See for yourself. Our front porch looked like the floor of a regular sawmill.

carpenter bees

sawdust made by carpenter bees

I was determined to get rid of them.

First I decided I needed to gather more intelligence. To Collect proof of their criminal behavior. I pulled up a chair and watched those bees, for hours it seems.

There was a constant coming and going, and a high-pitched buzz in the air. And whenever one alighted on the entrance to a hole, you could literally see the sawdust flying.

My next step was to take legal action. In the sense of making sure they weren’t by chance a protected species or in any way endangered. 

They weren’t. 

My first weapon of choice was a can of Raid. Surely that would work like a charm. 

Except carpenter bees aren’t fazed by a strong stream of concentrated poison whatsoever. It’s really hard to hit them at all because they never really sit still, but even if you do score the occasional bullseye, they just carry on flying. All I got for my efforts was a dripping front porch and an empty can of wasp spray.

So I called the exterminator.

Surely they were going to get rid of them with all their fancy pest control schemes.

But even the exterminator was helpless. I paid a big check just to watch him stalk our front porch in a full-body suit and a large canister on his back, but the bees only seemed to be more numerous afterwards.

carpenter bee
It must be the mouth. I mean, look at it, you can see it opening, ready to chomp down. The stuff of nightmares, actually, like a vampire ready to strike, don’t you think?

I was running out of options, but I had one more card up my sleeve. I decided to go online

Yes, Google, my trusted friend, came through in the hour of need. 

The best weapon for close combat with carpenter bees, I learned, was a badminton racket.

I immediately sensed the brilliance of this approach. A fly swatter of sorts, just a lot bigger and stronger, did seem to hold an entirely new sense of promise.

And you know what? I went to town with that badminton racket. Whenever the sun warmed up our front porch, a sure sign the carpenter bees would come buzzing soon, I’d stealthily approach, lay in wait, and whack that racket with such a vengeance that the bees were stunned right out of mid-air, with a glorious ping sound indicating each hit, to be finished off with a swift step if necessary. I got to leaving the badminton racket parked by the front door, and anybody passing by would have to take a few swings before being allowed in the house.

Typical scene outside our front door during the
last few weeks

It’s a good thing bee carcasses are easier to get rid of than deer carcasses. The bees kept on coming, and we kept on eliminating them.

In the end, the pest control guy was the one to finish them off by dusting the nests with a poisonous powder. You know, with one of those bulb things you used to suck the mucus from our baby’s nose. I now have white dust all over the front porch from where the bees whirled it to after getting it on their wings.

The porch is now eerily quiet.

I kind of miss the buzzing. And the hunting. I did love the act of hunting down my prey.

You might not call me a hunter, but you’d be perfectly in your rights to call me a hypocrite.

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