Reaching your professional goal is usually never simple. Most people in all walks of life train for years to develop a skill set that will allow them to have a successful career that reaches their lifelong goals.
Others are seemingly born with the necessary knowledge and by a young age know that their path is just as much destiny as it is anything. That’s the case of Eric “Critter” McCool. The owner of Summerville, S.C.-based McCool’s Wildlife Control and Bee Extractions, McCool’s background is a story that’s as much fun as it is impressive.
McCool, a leading bee extraction expert, started working in pest control at the age of 12 in exchange for ice cream. He got his nickname from wildlife work and his career blossomed from there.
“I started catching skunks for people in our town for ice cream sandwiches at the age of 12,” said McCool. “At 16, I opened my company and never looked back. So I’ve literally been in this industry my entire career. A few years ago a guy heard my story and after the job he gave me a box of ice cream sandwiches…funny.”
These days, McCool works for a bit more than ice cream. Recognized as an expert in bee extraction, he trains private companies, pest control firms, state and national associations, and now is providing counsel to companies and governments in Canada, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
550 POUNDS OF HONEY. McCool’s reputation as a true bee expert (he performed wildlife only for seven years before taking up bees) was launched in 2006 when he made a high-profile extraction. St. Mark’s United Church of Christ in Pennsylvania — McCool’s home state — had a million bees inside near the roof and honey was literally dripping down into the sanctuary. After several pest management professionals were unable to get the bees under control, McCool spent several days in the church, removed 550 pounds of honey and more than one million honey bees — the stuff of which headlines are made.
“That was a huge job because we had to lift the roof in places, I got stung over 200 times and the honey was actually causing several additional problems for the church,” McCool said.
“The honey attracts rodents, specifically rats, and at that job it was literally folding the wallpaper back. It took four full days but I was able to get total control of the bees and that’s when my bee business really took off. I did several churches after that and those are high-profile so it was just a snowball effect.”
WORLD’S LARGEST HONEYCOMB. Last fall, McCool was called to a South Carolina home where the resident had an 8-foot-plus honeycomb in his wall, but to get it out he had to cut it — giving “Critter” a 7-foot honeycomb that he says is likely the largest one in the world.
“When I do extractions I don’t go in there and just do it, I do a lot of documentation as to why they’re there, the shapes, sizes and how they are going in and out — I want to know everything about the bees,” he said. “This particular one I had to cut it to get it out of the wall joints and I contacted several associations to see if anyone had heard of such a large honeycomb and nobody ever had. It’s considered a record.”
A year earlier, he says he set the record by removing the largest yellowjacket nest ever documented from a pop-up camper. Measuring 10- by 7-foot, the hive had 37 queens and more than 400,000 yellowjackets in it.
“Because the entire camper was covered by yellowjackets, there’s a joke going around that I’m the first person ever to be inside of a hive or nest since I crawled inside of it and extracted them from the inside out.”
To date, McCool estimates he’s had about 7,100 stings from just about every type of stinging insect. But despite them stinging him, McCool always takes an environmental approach to bee and yellowjacket extractions.
“We work with beekeepers all over the United States. What I do, wherever I am working I touch base with local beekeepers and they come to the site and pick up the bees. I give all of my product, the bees, hive and honey, to beekeepers so they can take care of them. With yellowjackets we burn the nest and sometimes if it’s a larger nest we’ll relocate it to a rural area.
“But I’m a big Christian and bees were considered God’s in some cultures so I take a lot of pride in what I do. I like giving someone a ‘wow factor’ and that’s when you provide an answer to all of their questions without them asking them in the first place. I’m a bee guy with a wildlife nickname.”
Editor’s note: Contact Critter McCool at 843/ 819-3330.
The author is a PCT contributing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.