Yellow Jacket Season

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.

14 thoughts on “Yellow Jacket Season

  1. A good name for Ga Tech bec those real ones engineer some huge underground housing developments.

    The pesky ramblin’ wrecks in real life do have some uses: they eat various other pesky insects that damage plants. Skunks like to dig up yellow jacket colonies and feast therein. I have never seen them do this, only running across the remains of their predations in the woods.

    I’d like to have these guys as neighbors, though:

    The Baron and I are having a discussion – yeah, that’s what it is, a “discussion” – as to whether these varmints are the eastern variety or the german yellow jacket, which arrived here (Ohio) in 1975. I vote for the latter, but the Baron prefers the eastern variety. Everyone is entitled to be wrong once in a while…

    I think it is the German variety that NZ, South Africa and Europe must contend with. In warmer climates they winter over, with some ‘hives’ growing to house 100,000 little killers. They like NZ’s beech trees – it doesn’t say so, but perhaps the beech provides it with the wood it needs to make its nest…

    Oh my…it certainly does hurt to type. And the darn thing kills one’s appetite too.

    • Dymphna,

      Australia is also infested with the European Wasp (vespula germanica) and I agree, their stings are extremely painful.
      Unfortunately they’re doing very well in our warmer climate.

  2. I hate yellow jackets with an unearthly fury, because their stings aren’t only intensively painful, but my son and I have had violent reactions from their sting ,with difficulty breathing. I like to bundle up in cold weather gear to soak the underground nest with a large dose of gasoline and then ignite it and watch the evil nest burn.
    But it’s my reaction to ticks that causes me to fear for my soul. After I pull them off my body with tweezers, I like to pin them down to a board or a piece of styrofoam, and then spend a prolonged period of time tormenting them with a hot needle. And when I tire of that I use matches to cause the longest torment to them possible, while I make sarcastic remarks to them about being “Muslim popcorn” while addressing them with names such as Ackhmed and Mustafa.

    • Yes, they’re life-threatening for those who are allergic to their venom. Those with a severe allergy can go into anaphylactic shock. The doctor told me today their venom is different from that of bees and she has to order a different epi-pen for me. At the rate we’re losing our bee population, bee stings will become rarer – unless the aggressive African bee makes it this far north…

      I take it your ‘fun’ with ticks comes from having been through the process of being treated for Lyme Disease? It can be chronic and not respond to the usual protocol = i.e., a round of antibiotics. A fellow we know has the chronic kind and it has invaded his joints. He now has a very painful form of rheumatoid arthritis as a result of one of the tick diseases – they carry about four and attempting to sort them out is still pretty primitive. One doctor told me that the diseases carried by ticks resemble tertiary syphilis. When the Baron got Lyme last time, he was fortunate to be treated within a week or so and the disease resolved. Others have not been so lucky.

      Another friend lost her beloved dog to Lyme Tick Disease. It can be deadly.

      That’s why I am going to treat our yard with nematodes, especially in the areas where the deer come through. I am not finished doing the research on which kinds to get because they also bring fleas in here and I want to knock out both. Using pesticides is problematic because of our well.

      So tortue a few for me…bitten twice this year, but so far no infection. My friend with the severe tick illness wondered if my Fibromyalgia was due to Lyme (they can look alike) but I have no joint pain at all…

    • BTW, you just have to wear boots and long sleeves for the nest burn. Establish where the nest is, leave a marker on the ground and then go out after it’s totally dark – they will all have come back to the nest by then and will be quiescent. Yes, use gasoline and a small trail of it, ignite the trail and stand back. The next morning, dig it up.

      We’ve had no yellow jackets for a few years but anytime you have long spells of heat and no rain, they will be a problem. Here’s a map of their severity in Virginia:

      Scroll down past the bumpf to see the map. You kind of have to know where your county is to figure out how infested you are. Notice the counties up (down) in the Appalachians are showing no infestation. It may be a combination of altitude and cold.

      EDIT: Duh. That is a map of ticks, not yellow jackets. Either one can kill you, but one faster than the other. We used to do a kind of modified leaf burn in the early Spring…it rejuvenatd the grass but now I’m thinking it may also have had the effect of burning off larvae of ticks and fleas.

  3. Because living in the city limits prohibits me from pouring gasoline down the hole and incinerating the nest I’ve resorted to a combination of Sevin dust and wasp spray. During the day I can use the wasp spray (the 20-foot-long stream variety) at the nest holes to take care of some of them. The spray will instantly asphyxiate them since they breathe through their exoskeleton. Then, at dusk when they’ve returned to the nest I liberally sprinkle the Sevin dust around the nest holes. When they exit/enter the nest they walk in causing the Sevin to cling to their legs and abdomen. When they clean themselves they ingest the Sevin and die. It doesn’t take long to eliminate a nest this way but you do have to be diligent in your search as there are typically multiple entrances for a single nest.

  4. Parking a spinning lawnmower over the nest is satisfying and good for the soul, but the best bet is a mix of old stinking leftover chainsaw gasoline mixed with some used crankcase oil. Two to one ratio down the hatch works about right. Lit in the evening when the bugs are home–It burns well and seems to incinerate or kill the buggers even below ground.
    For basketball-size wasp nests in the trees, I use old #8 or #9 shotshells in a goose gun with a tight choke. Few survive the 2nd shot and self-evict.
    I HATE stinging bugs. I reciprocate their attitude towards me, but with better technology.

  5. I’ve used the analogy before but I think it’s appropriate to repeat it here: Christians are bees while muslims are wasps.

  6. My sympathies, Dymphna; I’m also allergic. I carry an adrenalin injector pen (might this help you?), but I’m still supposed to call an ambulance afterwards.

  7. Here is how I handled my wasp problem:
    Firstly, locate the nest where the creatures congregate. Prepare a stake of some sort, perhaps a broom handle, of about three feet in length. Drive the stake into the ground near the wasp nest. On the end of this stake, tie some dry rags. Now you must wait for a moonless night, the darker the better. After nightfall and in the darkness, pour some lighter fluid or petrol on the rags and catch it on fire so that you now have a burning torch. Finally, knock the wasp nest, filled with its inhabitants to the ground, and run away from the burning torch.

    Without fail, the wasps will immediately attack the source of light and fly into the fire and burn alive. Come out the next day and you will discover their bodies on the ground. Problem solved.

  8. I had a nest in our maple tree last year. A little less than 6 feet off the ground, didn’t notice it until fall. About the size of a football. Ducked my head directly under it every time I mowed last year. Probably came within an inch or two several times.

  9. I completely empathize with what you are experiencing. I have been dealing with chronic pain (Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy) since 2001. Praying for you.

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