At my brothers cabin deep in the southern Ohio woods, carpenter bees, known there as wood bees are a big problem. They look for all-the-world like our big bumble bees, but they drill and burrow into the beautiful wood siding of his cabin and make a real nuisance of themselves. Over generations, farm boys, country kids and outdoorsmen have developed numerous ways of entertaining themselves, many of which actually serve a purpose at the same time. One such game developed by my brother and his family is Wood Bee Bustin.’ The object of the game is fairly straightforward and simple; swat those suckers into oblivion using anything available, without breaking windows or threatening life and limb of those around you, the first being the most important. The two most popular weapons used in the sport of wood bee bustin’ are the common baseball cap (or just plain “cap” as my dad would say,) and a tennis or badminton racket.
First let’s consider the qualities of the baseball cap. Caps are cheap and easy to find, plus all farmers and most other households already have dozens of them on hand. In the sport of wood bee bustin’ a cap is held by the bill, so another plus is that one size fits all. Those hats made of thick heavy material pack the hardest wallop, but those nice light ones with the mesh in them are fastest in the air. When your quarry comes into sight (or sound) simply grab the bill of the baseball cap, wrest it from your head and swing it madly in the general direction of the enemy. One word of caution here; be sure to hit the critter with the top of the hat, as hitting it with the underside may simply scoop it from the air rather than killing it. This could cause the now ticked-off insect to remain alive inside the hat when placed back on your head, making for an even worse outcome than if you’d just let the creature fly past in the first place.
Since the only hat I ever wear is a stocking cap in the winter( which is absolutely useless when trying to swat a bee) my chosen armament for wood bee bustin’ is the badminton racket, although a tennis racket, ping-pong paddle, dish towel or even the newspaper your reading right now will get the job done in a pinch. The strings on a badminton racket are closer together than those on a tennis racket, giving the user the best possible chance of connecting with an incoming bee. When I was a kid we had nests of those big bumble bees in our garage every summer and that’s when we found out how good a badminton racket worked. A hit anywhere on the rackets surface would zing those big bumblers’ clear across the garage and bounce them off the far wall.
There are 2 basic styles used in wood bee bustin’; the chill-and-kill maneuver or the mauler-brawler approach. Since you usually hear the bee before you see it, the players using the chill-and-kill approach wait quietly until they actually see their quarry, then put it down with one well-placed swat. The mauler-brawlers however begin swinging wildly at the first “buzz,” savagely chasing the critter until they connect. A word of warning here; young bee busters usually resort to the mauler-brawler approach and can put innocent bystanders in peril.
Form in wood bee bustin’ is not important at all, as you’re often caught off guard and have no time to properly get your feet under you and square-up your body properly for the shot. So whether forehand, backhand, overhand, underhand, firsthand, secondhand or dead-mans-hand, it really doesn’t matter as long as you hit the critter the first time if at all possible, as the more swings you take, the more ticked-off it gets. This is the rule no matter your choice of weapons.
So there you have an overview of the popular but behind the scenes sport of wood bee bustin.’ It’s cheap and easy to get into, it can offer hours of entertainment and it provides a necessary service in the process; that’s more than you can say for most pastimes these days. So roll up this newspaper, don the “cap” you like the least and head for the bumble bees (and please leave the honeybees alone) as you continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]