27 July 2008

How I spent my afternoon

So the boys were outside yesterday painting on the sidewalk and patio out front with some special paint they got, and today, around noon, I decided to go wash it off with the hose. As I was getting set up, I heard a buzzing sound and looked up to see the largest fucking wasp's nest I have ever personally seen, about two feet above my head. It was under the eave where the hose is, at the front corner of the garage.

I sprinted inside, hustling the kids ahead of me. Safe for the moment, I viewed the hive through my office window and took stock of the situation.

I am afraid of bees. Not pathologically so, but a healthy, substantial fear nonetheless. There were, I roughly estimated, a million of them swarming around the hive, which was slightly larger than an NCAA-regulation football. How long had that been there and how on earth did we never notice it? The mind boggles. What were my options? Sell the house and move was the first thing that came to mind. No, a tough sell in a down market. Maybe live inside forever and never venture out again - abandon the front patio to the bees? Hmm. Sooner or later, they'll come in after us, I figured, looking for tender man-flesh. No, I had to face the fact: the bees must be "dealt with."

As it happened, we had some "Wasp and Yellowjacket Poison-in-a-Can," with the thoughtful feature that the foamy stuff came out in a jet up to 22 feet long. Perfect. I hosed down the nest from a safe distance and hid inside from the *huge* angry swarm that erupted. The stuff worked wonders, though, and in half an hour, there was an apocalyptic scene of scattered bee carcasses strewn across the patio and a silent hive, which I pried off with a shovel and sealed in a plastic garbage bag.

Sobered by the carnage, I surveyed the house and found another six substantial-sized, active nests. Four of them were only accessible with our 24-foot ladder, being under the high peaks of the house. My brave wife held the ladder as I ascended, and stoically withstood the rain of dead bees that ensued. For the other two, I had to venture onto the roof. I was the Bee Terminator, armed with my laser cannon, dealing out foamy death. At one point a massive hornet landed on the wall right in front of me, its shiny wings glistening in the afternoon sunlight. Its complex eyes regarded me, and its mandibles opened to utter a prophecy of doom, instants before it was deluged with creamy white death. Sic semper tyrannus.

At this point I was covered in foam from blowback (and from hosing nests directly above my head), and the can clearly warned against contact with skin. My exploits being completed, I holstered my weapon and retired inside to wash the toxins off. The boys were completely in awe of their heroic father and showered me with deserved praise. And now I sit on my hymenoptera-free deck composing this narrative, sipping a Hop Devil Ale and basking in my utter manhood.


  1. OK, now that was a good story. I was so engrossed in the tale that I forgot to even wonder if you were going to end up in the Emergency Room/Department. That's pretty good story-telling when you can keep us from leaping to the obvious conclusion.

  2. You earned that bottle of ale!

  3. Your wife held the ladder stoically because all she could think while you were up there was,

    "my husband is so hot right now doing such a manly deed".



  4. Considering the combination of extension ladder, angry bees, and toxic chemicals, I was afraid you were headed towards a "hey honey, watch this!" moment.

  5. I was totally waiting for this to end with organophosphate poisoning. I don't even know if that's what wasp killer is.

    I would have been inside under the bed not holding the ladder while hubby dealt with the issue. Then again I carry an Epipen for such dangers. And my hubby would have been scouring the phone book for someone to call to take care of the situation. ;)

  6. While I was atop the 24-foot rather bendy ladder, my brave wife did comment to nobody in particular that she had no idea how she would be explaining this to my colleagues in the ER after the ambulance brought me in...

  7. Uh oh, you are in trouble:

    "It’s the emergency department, not the emergency room." Whitecoat Rants.

  8. I hope you know that wasps are not bees. They're wasps. I would never kill a honeybee or a bumblebee, but with wasps, I figure we're on equal footing. Still, I'd rather prevent them from establishing themselves near me than kill them.

  9. My husband and I love that killing foam. We've had several large nests and that was finally the only thing that worked. Being allergic to both bees and wasps, I would always watch him from inside the house with a little bit of awe. He may not always get his manly props, but those are definitely the days he gets a great big attaboy from me.

  10. Kudos to you for your massive kill and for your bravery. I would have quickly locked myself in the house and called an exterminator.

  11. Congrats on the Great De-Wasping!

    Your tale reminded me of this one from something awful: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=2243176

    While the methods used were inadvisable, the story is pretty amusing (and it's amazing they didn't end up in the ER!).

  12. Oops, that url got cut off -- it's http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=2243176

  13. Trying again with a manual break in the url...



  14. Your tale reminded me of this one from something awful:

    Sorry, but there is nothing in common between these stories. Dr. Shadowfax is an alert homeowner; "flannel bob" is a stupid idiot. It is clear from the pictures that what he has is swarming bees. Swarming bees almost NEVER sting.

    If he had just called a beekeeper instead of a pest company, he'd have been rid of them for free, and without the Darwin Award behavior.

  15. New reader here, enjoying your stories. This post reminds me of the time I took out a nest of yellow jackets with a shop vac, an extra vacuum cleaner hose and a hoe.

    One of my daughters had complained of more yellow jackets than usual around the back door. I went out and stood by the steps to observe, and saw many going to, or coming from, a little used cupboard on the back porch.

    I have known for some time a vacuum cleaner is good to get rid of a moth on your curtain without leaving a smudge of wing scales. I also have practical experience removing a wasp from the inside of a window by vacuum cleaner. Just don't turn it off for a few minutes after capturing the beastie to ensure that the dust kills him.

    I took my shop vac to the back porch and plugged the power cord into a working outlet. I joined the shop vac hose to the extra hose with duct tape as they were different diameters. Used duct tape again to fasten the end of the smaller hose to the shaft of the hoe, just back from the blade. I checked the dust level in the shop vac, (Yup, plenty) and turned it on.

    The blade of the hoe worked quite well to open the cupboard, and to pull out the contents. The yellow jackets attacked the blade, and got sucked into the shop vac. Oh, yes, I also had long sleeves, and heavy work gloves with cuffs, just in case any of the membrane winged horde followed the handle of the hoe. Fortunately none of them were that smart or lucky, and I cleaned out the colony with no interference.

    When all the fliers were gone, I cleaned up the remains from the cupboard. Really messy housekeepers, those yellow jackets.

  16. I'm no eco-nut but I thought I would tell you about a safer wasp/bee killer made with mint oil. It's the same price, same size can, shoots just as far, and smells nice without the inconvenient side effects like memory loss or cancer.

    Victor is one brand.

    Another note. What you had are, with a 95% probability, yellow jackets, a type of wasp that can sting over and over. They are not bees (who have a barbed stinger and thus, sting only once and die.)

    YJ's are especially aggressive and I list them as the most dangerous animal in Michigan (next to the 2 legged variety) because:

    1. They are abundant and almost in every yeard.
    2. They are very aggressive. They do not need a reason to sting you if you get too close to the nest.
    3. They can sting over and over again.

    Bears? Never see one.
    Deer? They cause lots of accidents but not too many ER visits.
    Snakes? No poisonous snake sightings in Michigan since 1984.

  17. Sorry but I myself am allergic to bees and wasps and had half a dozen nests in my greenhouse, some of seem only a hand or two above my head and not once i was stung.

    The only time i was stung when i sat directly on one when i was a toddler or as a teenager when i had the stupid notion to poke a nest which was inside the earthen tunnel made by a rodent.

    And there also only one stung me.

    Not a mass attack like in TV cartoons.

    People are defenitely made stupid by TV about the danger of bees and wasps.

    Next time you are mining the street to kill the big bad cars..or not?

    Because cars are a greater and unpredictibal danger compared to bees and wasps.

    Or your neighbour, who knows..humans are the greatest danger to other humans.

    What i want to say, people panic too much..wasps and bees are harmless unless you are allergic and even then you have not a higher risk to get stung if you have a hive in your garden or not.

    It depends on how you act..if you go all sissy about them and act stupid you will get stung.

    Same thing with sharks, how many people are attacked and then killed each year?

    If people react that badly to something as harmless it is a wonder that people do not wander the streets and hunt down car drivers because people driving cars kill so many people each year and alcohol and cigarettes are still legal.

    Your ER stories are much more manly, stay with them..or save a girl by punching a shark..that is manly


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