During the wintertime our summer house hibernates.
This year the warm fall weather had delayed the inevitable end-of-season task of draining pipes, but finally, last weekend my husband and his plumber/friend headed to Tiverton.
Winterizing the house entails climbing into the hatch of the well house, disconnecting the water line that feeds the house from the well pump, and connecting it to an electric pump that pushes an antifreeze solution throughout the system.
Upon arrival at the summer place late Friday afternoon, my husband went into the house and started opening faucets. Simultaneously, his friend lifted the hatch of the well house, lowered in the electric pump and dropped in his tools.
And that’s when my husband heard the screams. Rushing outside, he saw his friend running away from a cloud of angry bees.
Sometime this fall, the squatters had discovered a crack in the foundation of the well house and moved right in. The hive, which was now the size of a basketball, rested comfortably in the corner of the structure. Solar-heated, the rubber roof of the well house absorbed the sun’s rays.
Protecting the hive, hundreds of yellow jackets surrounded the building. They chased my husband too, and he felt the searing sting from one of the sentinels at the back of his head.
When it was safe, they replaced the hatch and drove away.
Stopping at Home Depot on Saturday morning, my husband bought three self-dispersing canisters of insecticide. His friend activated them and carefully lowered them into the well house.
Following directions, they returned after four hours; but when they opened the hatch, the bees emerged.
The spectacle attracted our neighbors who were amazed at the size of the hive and its occupants. They advised them to stay out of the well house.
Very early Sunday morning, my husband and his friend headed to summer house for the third time in as many days. Just as the meteorologist had predicted, it was frigid with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees.
Now there was the possibility that it was already too late. The pipes might be frozen.
Opening the hatch, they noticed no activity near the hive. His friend climbed in the well house and with a shovel carefully removed the hive intact and handed it to my husband, who gingerly carried it into the woods behind the summer house.
Less than an hour later, the summer house was winterized.
“No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees / No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds – November!” wrote British poet and playwright Thomas Hood.