Shortly after Easter I spotted something that appeared to be a dead insect on the living room carpet. I gingerly picked it up and was taking it to the kitchen trash can when it suddenly moved and stung me on the finger. It turned out that it was a wasp and it wasn’t dead. It had just been playing possum and I fell for it. This, of course, was only the most recent skirmish in my long-running war against wasps.
To add injury to insult, that dangerous creature had stung me on my remaining good hand. I already had a lacerated finger on my other hand, from where I had cut myself slicing an Easter ham. I had been jealous of my son-in-law’s excellent ham carving knife, so I bought myself an extremely sharp one, that I really had no business owning. Now both hands were throbbing.
This event triggered memories of the first time I was assaulted by wasps, back in Florida. I was using an electric hedge trimmer when suddenly I was surrounded by angry wasps. I was stung several times on the back and arms. In my panic I severed the electrical extension cord attached to the trimmer. I was lucky that I didn’t get fatally shocked, as well as stung.
As I retreated to the house, I could see that there was a large wasps’ nest suspended right in the middle of the hedge I had been clipping. I suppose it was like when our middle son was a toddler and he would go into his sister’s room and violently shake her Barbie Dream House. We called him Hurricane Andy, just like the furious wasps; however, Andy’s sister was not amused.
Last summer my wife Diane and I ran across another swarm of hostile wasps who evidently had decided that our little pontoon boat was their territory. We had seen some of those cylindrical mud nests on the boat and I had assumed that they were made by what are called organ pipe mud daubers. The Wikipedia entry on wasps says, “Mud daubers are not aggressive and are unlikely to sting.” I don’t know what mud daubers they were talking about, but these wasps were extremely belligerent and both Diane and I were stung multiple times. A couple of times they literally chased us off the boat and back onto the dock. We assumed there must have been wasps nests under the dock because of the sheer numbers.
Eventually the wasps calmed down and we were able to return to the boat. We started the engine and took off. The movement of the air when we accelerated seemed to keep the wasps at bay. I, however, was then afraid to slow the boat down. It was a little like that Keanu Reeves movie Speed, where he has to keep a bus traveling at 50 miles an hour or it will explode. We were able, however, to dock the boat and get clear before the wasps were able to regroup and attack again.
In the past we usually kept our boat at a 4-H Fairgrounds for the winter, not far from where we dock it. Whenever we took it out for a new boating season, it was always infested with horrendous looking barn spiders. I tried spraying the pontoon liberally with foul smelling spider repellent, until I almost asphyxiated myself. Mothballs seemed to help a little more.
By the way, Wikipedia also says that mud daubers are “actually beneficial as they help control spiders.” Don’t believe it! Although our mud daubers chased us away, they did nothing to deter those terrible spiders. Together they presented a terrifying double-threat.
I finally did buy some super insecticide that was advertised to kill wasps, hornets and yellow jackets. The spray is supposed to reach 20 feet, for those of us who wouldn’t want to touch a wasp with a 10-foot pole. The poison didn’t seem to kill them, but it did seem to get them wet and angrier.
Just the other day I read that scientists are now concerned because they have discovered giant Asian hornets in Washington State for the first time. These frightening insects can grow up to two inches in length and can destroy an entire beehive in short order. Their stingers are long enough to pierce a standard beekeeping suit and in Japan, they kill up to 50 people a year. They are said to produce a toxic venom equivalent to that of a venomous snake. Usually staid and understated entomologists have nicknamed them “murder hornets.”
Diane and I have had trouble enough with mud daubers, we certainly don’t need to contend with murder hornets. The important thing to remember is to always treat nature with respect and don’t believe everything you read in Wikipedia.