Earlier this evening Dymphna and I had a reminder that not all dangerous, marauding, remorseless, aggressive invaders are members of Hamas or ISIS: we had a close encounter with a nest of yellow jackets just a few yards from our kitchen window.
This evening’s events reminded me of a snatch of dialogue from the Firesign Theatre album Everything You Know Is Wrong (1974). At the very beginning of Side 1, the narrator, Dr. “Happy” Harry Cox, is seeking assistance from Lem Ashauler, the editor of the Hellmouth Heater Democrat in Heater County, California. Mr. Ashauler is searching the 1897 archives of his newspaper at Dr. Cox’s request (for reasons that have nothing to do with this post), and he mentions in passing: “There was a big yellow jacket epidemic. They were fashionable in those days.”
Well, yellow jackets have just come back into fashion tonight here at Schloss Bodissey. I haven’t encountered a nest of the buggers for three years or so. There was a lull, but now they’re back.
We’ve been enduring extremely hot and dry conditions in Central Virginia, and Dymphna was outside in the (relative) cool of the evening, watering some of the flowers she planted in the spring. I went with her just for fun, foolishly barefoot and wearing a pair of shorts.
We discovered later that Dymphna had inadvertently dragged her hose directly over the entrance to a yellow jacket nest. The little bastards found me first, and stung me on the back of my knee. As soon as I felt the searing pain — like a hot coal being pressed against my flesh — I knew what it was, and took off across the yard to avoid the second battalion of marauders who inevitably follow the pheromone trail put out by the first sting.
I yelled at Dymphna to get away, to move in the opposite direction towards the pump house. But she didn’t move fast enough, and one of them stung her on the hand.
When she joined me in the house, she must have brought one of the devils with her. She found it crawling on her shirt, and brushed it off. After that she holed up in the bedroom while I prowled around looking for the intruder. He was in the laundry room, flitting around by the ceiling — which is what they always do after they emerge from “sting anything that moves” mode: they fly as high as possible, trying to escape.
I went to get a suitable instrument of destruction (a substantial but flexible publication by the Weston A. Price Foundation, very handy for vespicide). Meanwhile the six-legged enricher had made his way up here to the Eyrie, the highest point in the house. I spotted him on the north wall, and whacked him hard against the wooden frame of a painting. He fell behind the bookcase, and I haven’t seen him since.
At first the back of my knee burned like fire. Then it felt like the point of a stiletto had been embedded there, and I was walking around with it sticking out of me. Then it turned into a persistent intense ache. The side effects of yellow jacket stings are flu symptoms: a feverish feeling, aching joints, headache, weakness, dizziness. They last for a few hours, and then the next day the spot starts to itch, and I keep scratching it for days or even weeks afterwards.
I hate yellow jackets.
But it’s worse for Dymphna: she’s allergic. Many years ago, not long after we were married, she got stung by nine of them, and swelled up like Honey Boo Boo. We have to be alert for signs of anaphylactic shock when she gets stung.
Tonight she took a pre-emptive dose of Benadryl, and I’m monitoring her closely. As for me, I’m applying the approved treatment for those fortunate enough not to be allergic to insect stings: several glasses of Chianti, taken orally.
But not too many, in case I have to drop everything and drive my wife to the emergency room.
Yellow jackets serve no useful purpose. They’re agents of Satan, like Hamas. I’m all in favor of wiping them off the face of the earth.