Melvin Oliver: Bee man extraordinaire

Pat Haley - Contributing Columnist

The John Deere started right up after a long winter in the garage. There wasn’t a cloud in the blue sky, and the lawn tractor was purring. So was I. It was good to be outside mowing in the beautiful June weather.

As I maneuvered the tractor, I was daydreaming. I remembered that Brenda and I had decided when we moved in, to give our property a name. “Why don’t we call it Summer Wind, after the Frank Sinatra song?” Brenda asked.

So, on this particular spring day, I was driving around the front lamppost at Summer Wind when I saw a honey bee fly past my head. Several more dived at me as I drove down the hill. I stopped the tractor, turned around, and saw two black swarms of hundreds if not thousands of honey bees near the downspout next to our front porch. The buzzing was loud and the flying was frantic, as they were busily building a comb inside the overhead porch.

A few days later, I walked out front to survey the bees. To my surprise, the number of bees had doubled. Several flew at my head like dive bombers toward a sinking ship.

Brenda came outside and immediately said, “We really need to call someone to come and get these bees out of here. We cannot allow them to burrow into the house.”

Shortly, I went inside and called local bee keeper, Richard Stewart. “Richard, we have bees swarming near our front porch and they are flying around like crazy. Would you come and help us?” I asked.

Within an hour, Richard and his son pulled in front of our house. He surveyed the ever-growing swarm, scratched his chin and said, “This will be a big job. Probably bigger than I have time to do, but I know a man who will likely help you,” he said.

Two hours later, we heard a knock at our front door, we saw a tall, pleasant looking man. As I opened the door, he outstretched his large hand and said, “Hello, my name is Melvin Oliver, and Richard Stewart said you needed some help with bees.”

“We sure do, Mr. Oliver. As you can see, they are taking over the front porch,” I replied.

“Let me see what I can do,” he calmly said as he put on his bee helmet and gloves.

Melvin knows his bees. He assessed the problem and said, “I can’t promise, but think I can help you. Now, it may take several weeks, or even a month or so, but I am pretty sure we can get rid of the bees for you.

Melvin first covered the holes with large black plastic tape. Then, he placed a tin funnel into the hole with the small end sticking up toward the sky.

Each day there were fewer bees. Three weeks went by and we believed the bees were finally gone. Unfortunately, the next day they were back. Two new swarms were around the downspout, and now were burrowing under the light in the center of the porch.

Melvin came back and said that he would need to repeat his process. After a few days, it appeared the bees were gone again. Two or three days later they returned. The pattern kept repeating itself.

One evening while Melvin, who hails from Hyden, Kentucky, was suiting up to inspect the bees, he told Brenda and me a story.

He said that he and several of his friends from Kentucky like to go into the mountains to hunt squirrels, and for supper every night they eat hogs’ heads. He said they go deep into the woods, a couple of hours away from the nearest town.

One year his preacher decided to go with the group. They had been there three days, and each evening they had cooked and eaten a hog’s head. Once there were no more hogs’ heads, the preacher said he was going home.

“Why are you leaving, Preacher?” Melvin asked.

“When you run out of hogs’ heads, there is no reason for me to stay,” the Preacher said with a laugh as he started the long walk back to civilization.

“I think he worries about his cholesterol,” said one ole boy from the hills. “If my momma knew we had cholesterol she probably would have fried it, too.” They all laughed.

We returned to the subject of bees and Melvin said, “Pat, I just figured out the problem. As the crow flies, I only live about two miles from you all. When I take the bees home and turn them loose, those little critters are turning right around and flying back to your front porch.”

Melvin said he was going to collect the next batch of bees and take them further away before he released them, and see if that would deter the bees from returning to our front porch.

The next morning the bees were gone.

If you want to rid yourself of bees, call Melvin Oliver. Just like the folks at Summer Wind, you will be glad you did.

Pat Haley

Contributing Columnist