Monday, 16 August 2010

Will o' the wasp

Long-time readers of this blog (there are a couple of you, aren't there?) may remember that I have a certain, er, delicacy about insects. My grandfather was an entomologist, but evidently this didn't rub off on me. ("Eewww... is it on me? Get it off! Get it off....")

Where was I? Oh yes. My squeamishness about bugs. When my sister and I were small, my mother got around the expense of a summer holiday by taking on the job of hostel parent in nearby Banff and Jasper. Now, my mum was worried about bigger things than insects. She was really concerned about bears, so she hung whistles around our necks and instructed us to blow them if we needed her. Our whistles would ring from the nearby creek; Demeter would dash down bashing on a pot to scare away ursine predators only to be confronted by two terrified little girls: "Wasses, mummy! Wasses!" By the end of the summer she decided the bears could have us.

It's the fourth evening of the heat wave. I waited until the sun was setting to tackle the watering of the back garden. First, I checked the potted plants on the deck with my plant wand, then, on a whim, decided to sweep up a bit. In doing so, I knocked one of the deck chairs with a good thump and suddenly the darkening air was full of insects.

Holy mother of.... With an agility and speed I didn't know I possessed, I found myself inside the sliding screen door, gazing at dozens of long-legged wasps hovering around the chair I'd disturbed. They didn't looked pleased. Bloody hell, I thought. The cats were due to be let out, and they always exit by that door, and there was no way I was sliding that screen open.

Thinking quickly, I slipped out the side door, reached around to unlatch the gate, and turned on the hose, thinking grimly of my determination not to knock down wasps' nests for the people who own this house. Then I gingerly ascended the stairs to the upper deck. I rounded the corner and directed the hose at every wasp I could see, whirling and spraying. I felt a bit like a character in a Sam Peckinpah film. Then I knocked the deck chair over and blasted the nest itself which was round, flat, about six inches across, covered with uniform cells and swarming with wasps. I kept spraying and spraying washing the struggling wasps across the floor and over the edge of the balcony. Every now and then I'd aim at flying wasps that kept arriving, I guess because it was evening and they were coming home. Every time I directed the hose back at the nest, more wasps seemed to be emerging. It was like that clown car at the circus with dozens of clowns getting out of it. Eventually, I washed the nest itself free of the underside of the chair and over the edge. With fewer wasp sightings, I occasionally took time to water the potted plants, before hitting out at another late arrival.

Finally, I opened the screen door to allow the cat to exit. He, of course, was not sure about dampening his white paws and took his time before venturing out. Nervously, I set about watering the rest of the huge backyard, my mind buzzing with fearful images of vengeful vespiforms wreaking waspish revenge for the slaughter I'd committed and the home I'd destroyed. When I went to turn off the hose, one wasp was on the wall at eye level. She seemed to look over her shoulder at me. I let her live, mainly because I was unarmed, but this war isn't over. August is still young. Yellow pages next, I should think....


JoeinVegas said...

Glad you didn't sit in the chair.

Persephone said...

What I'm really glad of, Joe, is that I discovered this before Sunday, when some friends are coming over for dinner! They're "sit outside" sort of people...

Ann ODyne said...

1. re a solution: I am sure I read a blogger who posted a pic of a fake wasp nest one buys at the hardware, and when you hang it, other wasps think the 'territory' is occupied and move on. just put Waspinator into searchbox.

2. we call them European Wasps here in Australia. a bit racist.

3. housesitting a farm once and I left the truck window down overnight and wasps built a nest on the dashboard - it was not big enough to be occupied the next morning when I saw it, and was really hard to get off.

4. wasses v bears ... um, I'd rather bear attack thanks.

be safe.

Persephone said...

Ann O D, I hung up the fake wasp's nests over a month ago and had thought they were working. The trouble is, I think, they don't look like paper wasps' nests (the picture on my blog post); they look like yellow jacket wasps' nests. I have two more; I could try hanging them out with the two that are already there. I can see the critters buzzing around out there looking for their nest today. Will wait until dark to check that they haven't started another one, the buggers.

Rob said...

Hum. You have my sympathy. We've had fairly substantial nests in the outside wall of our first flat and in the wall separating our present garden from the street. We've just dealt with a smallish one in a ventilator on the back wall of our holiday flat in Ballater. Hilary was able to reach through the window far enough to inject toxic gunk into the nest entrance, and I then took up station and sniped with a can of raid at the cloud of puzzled wasps returning to find their home transformed into a mass grave. (It's an upstairs flat so a hose wasn't really an option.)

I have always shared your opinion of the beasts.