Yellow Jacket Patrol
The Cedar Rapids-Linn County area has a system where
bee problem calls to authorities are forwarded to the Linn County
Extension Service or Indian Creek Nature Center. People also make
calls directly to them. Indian Creek Nature Center is forwarded
the calls made to the extension service as ICNC maintains a list
of beekeepers that have agreed to follow up on the calls. I’m
on their short list.
Last spring and summer I got a call for a swarm
of bees in a tree, two calls for bees in walls of buildings and
two calls for storm-downed trees with bees. They were all honeybees.
Starting in late August I received a call from a
woman that had honeybees in a hollow tree in her back yard. She
wanted a tree service to remove the tree but they wouldn’t
as long as there were bees in it. Could I come and remove the
bees? I told her I would come look at them. She was going to be
gone but I would call her later. I found her house and the bee
tree in her back yard. A very active nest of yellow jackets was
in the large, hollow tree. I called the woman and told her to
get a can of Wasp & Hornet spray and wait till after dark
and spray up into the hollow tree. Then the tree service could
remove the tree.
Next I got a call for bees in the wall of a church.
The Youth Pastor had been stung and the fear was that church members
would be next. Could I come see what I could do to help them?
An exterminator gave them a quote of $150 and that was an expense
that would strain their budget. The church was less than a mile
from ICNC so they could be a swarm of bees from there.
Drove to the church and I was shown where the “bees”
were. They were yellow jackets at the top of a brick wall, above
a window, under the roof. I got a can of Wasp & Hornet spray
and went back after dark with a ladder and my caulk gun. Sprayed
the entrance to the area where the yellow jackets were and caulked
the gaps around the trim piece that blocked the cavity. I wasn’t
sure that would solve the problem-wait and see. Told the contact
person to call me if that didn’t do the job.
Got a call in 2 days that there were still yellow
jackets, they had found other openings and the spray hadn’t
gotten in to the nest. So I went back that day with my eggbeater
drill with a ¼ inch bit and an extension tube on the spray
can. Drilled three holes in the soffett about where the nest was-I
could hear them the first night. Put some good shots of spray
into the cavity where the nest was. Then I removed the trim block
and a cloud of angry yellow jackets didn’t meet me. Figured
I had eliminated the nest. I shot the remaining amount of spray
in the can into the cavity for good measure.
Then I replaced the trim, caulked all the voids,
and did the same on all the other trim pieces along that wall
of the church. Then I spent several hours swatting straggler,
foraging yellow jackets returning to the nest. That ended the
I next received a call from a woman that was about
a mile down the street from me. She had honeybees in her house
and she wanted them gone. She had honeybees in a house in Dallas,
TX and an exterminator had killed them but didn’t remove
them. They stunk up her house and she had an awful mess. I asked
if they might be yellow jackets? NO! She knew her bugs and they
So I drove to her house, which was only three years
old, nice, large, brick in a very expensive, wooded development.
She showed me where the bee nest was-behind the wood trim, under
a second floor window. Yep, they were yellow jackets. They were
high up and not in an area to endanger people. I told her that
I could kill them and there wouldn’t be a mess or she could
wait for cold weather and they would die naturally. She could
wait. She was calling the exterminator to cancel them and I saved
The next call was for bees next to the foundation
in a hole in the ground. So drove over there and sprayed a nest
of yellow jackets with a can of Wasp & Hornet spray. My wife
had three cans of it in the trunk of her car that she had bought
real cheap at a garage sale. I gave the can to the guy and told
him to spray into the hole again after dark and that would take
care of them. He paid me more for the can than it cost.
The final call came from Mount Vernon, which is
a long haul from home. The house was a rental duplex that had
honeybees in the attic. The owner went with me to the house and
I was walking with the owner around to the backyard
where the bees were. Yah! Suddenly I was falling flat on my face
except I threw my arms out and caught myself before I went face
first into a bed of lava rock under the roof drip. I had stepped
down to the top step of a basement stairwell that was unprotected,
without guardrails while looking up at the roofline. Gad!
Only ripped a hunk of skin nearly off the palm of
my left hand. I picked myself up and recovered tactfully. Asked
where the bees were coming out of the attic? Had to wait a while
until two yellow jackets darted out from under the vented soffett.
The yellow jackets had gnawed a hole through the plaster in one
room of the apartment about the size of a lead pencil. There was
a windowsill covered with dead or dying yellow jackets that they
had sprayed. I explained the difference in appearance between
honeybees and yellow jackets. I told the owner to caulk the hole
in the ceiling. That would seal the room from the attic. Then
cold weather would kill the yellow jackets and there wasn’t
any honeybee nest in the attic to cause a mess.
I did get my hand wound cleaned and dressed by the
owner’s wife and they paid more than the cost of my gas
and a couple of Band-Aids.
That was a few of the experiences of a beekeeper
providing a service and maintaining good public relations.