Friday, July 17, 2009

Yelowjackets: This is How We Do It In Ohio

So you've got a yellowjacket nest, hrm? Looks like Ricky Shambles needs to do some schooling so ya don't hurt yerself (based on true events).


Yellowjackets are NOT bees. They are yellow and black and fly and sting, but they are wasps (sting multiple times), terribly ornery, and tend to make their nests in the ground.

When I was 8, I was standing on a railroad tie in our backyard like I'd done hundreds of times before to get some water from the spigot. Suddenly I was being stung multiple times in the legs, straight through my knee-high striped baseball socks. Screaming ensued. Then calming. Then Grandpa and Dad went to work.

My daughter found the nest, smack in the middle of the yard. Luckily for us we did not learn that day whether she shares her mother's toxic reaction to stings.

So keep back and spend some time observing. Yellowjackets sometimes have a secondary, back door to their nest. When you attack, you will want to know if that is a potential.

NOTE: If the nest is out of the way, it's up to you if you want to eliminate it. If it is near the end of summer, you may want to leave it alone either way - this is when they go batshit crazy in a last-gasp effort to gather food.

Buy Death in a Bottle
Best stuff from what I could find online is a powder that spreads. But for my money, I like the immediacy of an expanding foam - two cans please.

Wait Until Night
Yellowjackets are active during daylight hours and as the night gets cool, they hunker down and go mildly dormant. If you're lucky enough to get an evening when the temp drops below 50F, the buggers will have a hard time even flying - if they get a chance to get out.

Suit Up
It was warm, but I put on thick socks and tucked jeans into my Harley boots, tucked my thickest Guinness hoodie into the jeans, and tightened that hood. That image is yours to play with, but the electronic copy (procured by my daughter) will not be available for viewing.

I hovered for a bit, awaiting any sign of movement or activity. There was none. I was alone. I had both cans shaken and to the side. I moved quickly and decisively at the hole (about as wide as my thumb), held the nozzle close and sprayed. Within a couple seconds the foam had rapidly expanded and was coming out of the hole, but I kept steady, aimed straight. When the first can sputtered, I hit it with the second, keeping a close eye on the expanding foam bubble for any signs of a superbug of some sort making a break through the foam.

But there was nothing. No movement. Not even any buzzing when I was done. They appeared to be gone.

Set That Shit On Fire
When I was stung as a kid, it had been on a Saturday. I remember that because that night my father and grandfather hosed that nest. The next morning, after church, we stood outside and watched Dad kick over that railroad tie to reveal the nest underneath. A couple 'jackets lay dead beside it. He walked back to the garage and returned with a gas can. After a fair amount of pouring, he lit a match and we watched it burn, standing there before the small fire in our church clothes.

I joined my father in this tradition at 6am the morning after my own foamy attack. Treading carefully I quickly observed there was no movement or activity. I poured some gas down the hole and lit the emerging fumes.

Setting the nest on fire
(I know, it looks like JFK's Eternal Flame.)

After a few minutes and a visible spread of glowing orange below the grass that was beginning to smoke profusely, it was obvious I had been over-zealous in the application of gasoline. I batted the fire out with my broom and returned to the house, feeling proud, feeling part of a legacy, and damn ready for some breakfast.


Randal Graves said...

Burning a yellow jacket nest. Ah, memories. I honestly haven't seen one in years though. Maybe they've flown to more comfortable climes.

Lisa said...

The picture gives me the heebie jeebies. I have a bee phobia. But now I'm wondering if that same fire method would work for fire ants?

I tangled with a nest of ground hornets once when mowing a neighbor's yard. My brother rescued me by spraying them with a combination of WD40 and a fire extinguisher. Ah....good times.

Ricky Shambles said...

Randal - hoping for the best that they've moved out for you.

Lisa - Fire ants? Fire? Sounds like a great combination. But I'd skip the insecticide. Just burn. It'll be more fun that way :)