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Date: 19/05/19

The Boards And The Bees

Remember me telling you last time about the bumblies who had nested in the back wall of the house?

Well, a couple of nights or so after the house was rewired, I was lying in bed and I could hear - just above the level of perception - a sort of...humming. It would last for a few minutes then disappear, only to re-emerge about ten minutes later. I initially dismissed it as either some function of the central-heating boiler (which is in what used to be the airing cupboard (*)) or just simply imagination, in the way that you can still 'hear' a persistent noise for some time after it has stopped.

But it happened again the next night. And it was also noticeable during quiet parts of the day. On about the third or fourth night, I got up and went around the bedroom with my ear cocked to see if I could track down the geographical source of the buzzing. I found that it was concentrated towards the rear wall of my bedroom.

It was at that point that I realised that the bumble bees, far from having limited their nest to the cavity wall of the back of the house, had managed to extend their domain right under the back bedroom and across to the front one. The fact that there were some sizeable gaps between the floorboards there would account for the fact that I could now hear them.

It might also - I now recognised - account for my finding those bumblies in the back bedroom the previous Saturday (as previously recounted). Perhaps they hadn't come in through the open window after all, but up through the floor.

This presented me with an urgent issue: I already knew that I was going to have to use my handy-dandy filler of PVA adhesive plus old wood-dust from the belt-sander bag to plug the gaps between the boards - some of them of considerable width - but I now realised that it was going to have to be done a.s.a.p. in order to prevent any of the little buggers starting to emerge in my own bedroom.

So it was that last Thursday after work, I hied me to Screwfix for another 5 litre bottle of PVA, as the one I had used for the task before was nearly out. Which I then had to lug around town as I did the rest of my shopping there.

Saturday morning saw me don my DIY outfit (an old black T-shirt plus a pair of old black trousers which remind me that I'm not a 34 anymore), grab the PVA, the old biscuit tin in which some of the remaining dust was kept (I still have another two tins just in case) and the fabled knife mentioned here, and set to it.

I started in my bedroom, where another problem presented itself. Some of the gaps were so wide that, no matter how thick the filling mixture, it would just go straight through the hole and into the void below. So I had to fashion something which would fill the gap up a bit, at least enough to prevent the disappearance of anything I tried to apply.

In this, I had a bit of luck. After the Council (yes, them again) had replaced my roof in the autumn of 2016, they had left behind one of the wooden blocks upon which they had rested their scaffolding. It had been out in the garden ever since, but I got hold of it, evicted the two slugs and numerous woodlice which had been living on it, and propped it up against the south-facing wall of the old coal bunker to dry in the sun.

Bringing it in, I was able to chop off slivers of sufficient width and length to fit into the wider gaps, albeit with the occasional assistence of a hammer. The gap was then narrow enough for the filler to go in and - crucially - stay in.

I had finished my bedroom and the little bedroom next to it (pretentiously referred to by moi as 'the library', simply on the grounds that nearly all my books are kept there), and went to survey the back bedroom...

...Only to find another three bumble bees pratting about on the window sill. This confirmed my hypothesis about where they were coming from, since that window hadn't been opened for a whole week. I chopped two small pieces of wood off the block and glued them over the holes which used to accomodate the pipes leading to the old radiator which had been taken out nearly two years before. Sizing the situation up further, I decided to take lunch before tackling the rest of the room (having gently evicted the bees).

I returned about an hour later to find yet another bee on the window sill. Clearly, then, the old holes weren't their points of emergence. This left either one particularly large gap between the boards about six inches from the wall, or...the holes through which the pipes for the current radiator had been fed. This latter possibility seemed to me to be the most plausible, and so I set to it with the filler, piling it up around the point where the pipes emerge from the floor. It took a few minutes to make sure that, a) the filler was right up to the pipes and, b) that none of it was going to drop through.

I then turned my attention to the gap in the boards, and it was interesting (if more than somewhat creepy, truth be told) to hear, from just beneath the holes I had just filled, that high-pitched buzzing that bees make when they're annoyed or confused. "Live with it, sweeties!", I murmured to myself, hoping that they wouldn't be so bloody-minded as to try to bore/burrow/eat their way through the filler.

By tea-time, I had filled all that most needed filling in all the upstairs rooms and on the landing, and decided that the worst lacunae had now been dealt with, and that that was that for now.

I can still hear them faintly under the boards in my bedroom late at night, and I theorise that they send one or two off to patrol the perimeters of the nest from time to time.

I'm content for them to do that. Live and let live and all that. One thing is for certain, though; once their season has ended, I'm getting that hole around the overflow pipe on the back wall mortared up properly. Otherwise, who knows what might try to arise through the bedroom floors next spring...

Q. Which room in the house would you use for drying fish?

A. The herring cupboard.