The man behind the veil is Brookfield resident Curt Jepson. For the last 12 years he’s been the man to call when bees and hornets have made your home their home.
Jepson is assisted by Ken Chipman, but few people know either of them by their given names. Area residents know them as the men who rid backyard patios, porches and basements of pesky, stinging creatures.
The Bee Man has gained quite a reputation in the Milwaukee area and throughout the state for his knowledge and treatment of stinging insects. To call on his services, open up the telephone book to “The Bee Man, Inc.”
“I’d always had an interest in bees in particular, and wasps are just as fascinating as bees. My brother was a beekeeper, and he got me interested in collecting them for laboratories,” said Jepson.
His service to medical laboratories is particularly unique. Jepson freezes the hives and then takes them apart, removes the insects and ships them to laboratories in dry ice where the venom is extracted and then used to treat people with allergies.
Jepson has developed what he calls a whole-house treatment, using his own method to eradicate homes and yards of bees and wasps.
“I’m the only one in town. I think there’s someone in Madison, but I’m the only one who supplies laboratories now in the state of Wisconsin,” said Jepson.
While he won’t divulge his bee-ridding techniques, he will say that he uses non-repulsive chemicals that are not strong and Won’t leave any contaminants.
“I’ve developed my own methods, and I really don’t want to give away any of my secrets. Exterminators are entering the field now,” said Jepson.
“But the home will be bee- and wasp-free — and we guarantee it,” he said. “And I can do a whole house without bathing it in chemicals.” This is the yellow jacket season, Jepson said, and it’s nearing its peak just now. Usually it comes later in the year, but weather moved the season ahead. And weather is also the reason for the abundance of stinging insects this year.
“What do you mean the bees are bad this year? It all depends on your point of view,” said Jepson with a chuckle.
“The mild winters we’ve been having aren’t cold enough to kill off the queens. With most stinging insects, queens are produced this year. They mate in the fall and then hibernate. Every queen that survives will build her own nest in the spring,” said Jepson.
They usually find places to hibernate that are out of the weather and protected — under shutters or in the bark of trees, for instance.
“The nests now are filled with workers, mostly males. The queens will come later. That’s what they are working up for now — to produce as many queens as they can for next year,” Jepson said.
Jepson is fascinated by bees and wasps. They’re a very interesting culture, he said. Mud wasps, for instance, provision their nests with spiders, stinging them first to paralyze them.
If Jepson is an expert on bees and wasps and their habits, he’s also very knowledgeable about getting stung. He wears coveralls, elbow-length gloves and a veil; yet he still frequently gets stung.
“I’ve been stung too many times to count. It hurts, but if you’ve been stung enough, you know what to expect,” he said.
And contrary to rumor, some insects can sting more than once. “They die only if they leave their stingers in you. Wasps don’t do that usually, so they can sting you more than once. Honey bees have barbed stingers, however, so they usually die “because they lose their stinger and venom sac,” said Jepson.
Once he was hired to rid a suburban church of honey bees. A well-meaning church member had tried to do the job by plugging the bee holes, but it only trapped them and allowed them to nest in the sides of the building, Jepson said.
“I went out there at night, intending to save the bees and the honeycomb. There were bees all around. First one got inside my veil, then there was another one and finally I must have had about two dozen bees flying all around my face inside the veil.
“I ran out to the parking lot, took off my veil and found I had forgotten to zip it up before I started. I didn’t get stung that time — they were very gentle bees — but I almost quit the business.”