Monday, September 25, 2017

Killers of Bees

The gazebo sporting our 'Spring' stained glass window in late afternoon. 

 Well, here we are going into the first week of autumn but you'd never know it.  I haven't checked any almanacs to be sure, but we must be breaking records of some sort since we were close to ninety for the last few days.  Looking at the forecast, we have one more day of the heat wave and then back down to the upper 60's again.  


All of this heat has made the wasps and hornets all the more feisty and me all the more jumpy.  The swelling from the stings a week ago has finally gone down in my hands, but I'm still itchy at times. 

The 'Autumn Joy' sedums are crawling with bees. 
 In a normal fall, wasps are pesky enough, but add high heat to the equation and they are even more of a threatening nuisance.  They only have a few weeks left to live, so they're in full-out 'Livin' la vida loca' mode right now whereas I'm doing my best to keep on Stayin' Alive.

 Please, please, do NOT sting me again.  

This morning there was a hornet on the chicken coop door which fell into my hair when I let the Girls out for the day. Thank goodness he/she was groggy and didn't let me have it.  Then there was a yellow jacket on my watering can handle, the same watering can I just put down a few seconds before.  Luckily, I spotted that one before I grabbed it, too.  

Reading about the wasp life cycle, the experts say the worker bees are almost starving and can become punch drunk this time of year, feasting on fallen fruit and anything else they can get their waspy little selves into.   I wouldn't dream of eating outside right now, there's far too much winged competition.  

  Wasps and hornets are crawling on the house siding, windows, they're in the trees, gads, they're everywhere.   One more sting this year and I will have a full-blown case of Spheksophobia.  We cannot let that happen.  

I grumbled to Carl this morning that between the heat and humidity and the stinging bugs, I'm far better off in January because our normal cold weather doesn't bother me.  At least I can cross-country ski with no fear of being stung.  

Yes, this is why I choose to live in a part of the country where the wind hurts my face six months out of the year:   
There's no wasps or mosquitoes in January.

This past week of sting recovery left me miserable and kept me indoors.  With too much time on my hands, I began to binge watch endless YouTube videos on wasp nest removal techniques.  Apparently I'm not the only one who dislikes their antisocial personalities.  I know wasps and hornets fulfill a very important niche in the world and they do have a purpose; I just wish they didn't have such attitudes about it.

I've seen videos of people trying to kill nests of yellow jackets with everything from soup to nuts....ok, I guess there wasn't any soup, but there were plenty of nuts trying the following: A squirt gun, a flame thrower (the tree the nest was in did not fare very well)  bottle rockets, shotguns, driving a drone into a nest, gasoline, fire, detergent and water, elaborate electrified contraptions, handheld tennis racket style bug zappers laid on top of the nest entrance (if the batteries last long enough, it might work, but I pity the fool who has to replace the battery.)


My YouTube experience was like watching a horror movie; you know what's going to happen when the heroes/heroines go outside alone....I found myself yelling at the screen, "Don't do it!" every time a wannabe intrepid hornet hunter tried to deal with a nest in broad daylight (and even in the dark with flashlights, because the hornets will follow the beam of light or hose-wielding invader to it's source, the human on the other end.)  

Oh, that's gonna hurt.  

And it did.  People were running, swatting, swearing and stung. 

 A lot.

Surprisingly, one man had quite good luck with a Shop Vac partially filled with water and some dish detergent and was able to suck up the entire colony which had invaded his front porch eaves.  That one looked like a success.

We, on the other hand, have not done anything about the ground nest I had the misfortune of running into last weekend.  It's way, way out in the field and no one goes out there right now. When cold weather finally arrives, their time is up anyway.  We'll just steer clear of them until then.  But I fully agree about removal being necessary when a nest is close to a home or an area frequented by people and pets. 

One thing I learned from my educational viewing is that shooting a nest out of a tree is a really bad, bad, idea, especially in broad daylight.   The entire assembled crowd of goofballs were running for their lives when the nest hit the ground, screams of agony reverberating in the air.  Of course, alcohol and bravado were two main factors.

However, the strangest wasp nest attack I viewed was a man who started his removal attempt with a guitar solo.  Huh, that video was a head scratcher.

Spoiler Alert:  It didn't work.

In the meantime, I'm exercising extreme caution.  I'm still going about my chores, but keeping my eyes open.

After all, in a few weeks Mother Nature will take care of the bees. 

And I'll be safe to roam again.  (After I shovel.)


Ellie's friend from canada said...

Hi Karen,

I'm glad to read that the swelling has gone down. Please don't rely on the cold water trick. The epipen is much better. I absolutely love the stained glass in your gazebo. Beautiful!

Your canvassing of various methods to get rid of a wasp nest was interesting. My father used to use a vacuum. This year, (as often happens), there was crack on the porch which the wasps readily adopted as their own. Some neighbours were having some brick work done so their workers donated a bit of mortar to my cause and I mortared the crack. I should have done it at night when all of the wasps were inside but I couldn't wait as the mortar would set. So there were a quite few very irate stragglers looking for their nest. One year a friend's husband dug down 12 inches next to the base of the porch and then laid concrete so they could no longer get under the edge at the base of the porch. When I came home about 5 hours later, I saw a slow but steady stream of wasps emerging through the mortar mud. A return visit by my friend's husband happened immediately and he buried them in more mud. End of problem for several years until this year. Later in the summer, I saw the grey nest paper all over the yard. I can't imagine what caused several nests to be destroyed but was glad of it.

You have my sympathies about the wasps. Having read your column, I myself don't even want to go outside now. Once the shade hits the patio table, it is safer. And we've had frost and low temperatures so that helps.

Take care. Be vigilant!


outlawgardener said...

Your spring window looks spectacular in the gazebo. Glad to hear that you're recovering nicely from being assaulted in the field. I've heard of people using hairspray on hornet nests as it makes them unable to fly. You'd have to have a pretty long pole and a way to keep the button on top of the can depressed. Your descriptions of the youtube videos of eradication techniques are fun & now I want to go watch them myself!

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

I love your sense of humor. So sorry about the stings--I hope the swelling will be gone soon! I don't have any patience for the yellow jackets because they're an introduced species: They don't belong here. The native wasps supposedly don't sting as much, unless aggravated. Your garden is wow--amazing! And that spring window is strikingly beautiful!

Karen said...

Ann, thank you! I've used mortar to seal up some small holes in brickwork we have here in the past. I learned the hard way (though I wasn't stung) to wait until after dark to do the sealing AFTER we'd taken steps to kill the nest. I've read if you seal them alive inside they will do their best to chew their way through wood and could even enter the interior of the home if they are unable to exit any other way.

We had a paper nest completely destroyed out in the pine trees, too. Apparently skunks, opossums and/or raccoons are capable of tearing up a nest to get to the grubs. They are much braver than me!

Karen said...

Peter, I'd have to find THE toughest Aquanet Hairspray, the Industrial Version. It would be fun to see them all stiff and sticky. Should I make my own video? How fast can I run? We'll see....

Karen said...

Beth, thank you! Yes, I'm glad of the break in the weather; the bees were much slower today!

Carol said...

I can so relate to your wasp fears. A couple of years ago we had yellow jackets ground nesting right next to the front patio. Every time I waked out the door I got stung! One time 8 at once got me while I was trying to bring in groceries. The next even I discovered their nest entrance and in the dark of night with just the moon guiding me I poured a whole gallon of pesticide down the hole and around the area. Peace at last for the rest of the summer. May have been over kill but I had had enough of their antisocial behavior!!!

Karen said...

Carol! Eight!!?? OUCH! Six was bad enough; I swelled up like a hot air balloon. I don't blame you for taking extreme measures, whatever it takes to get rid of the darn things. And you are so right--- anyone reading this: You HAVE to wait until dark when all of the winged menaces are back in their nest for the night before you attempt to kill them. They do have to sleep sometime. :-)