This summer I’ve been locked in a battle to the death with a colony of yellow jacket wasps. Sometime in July, they took up underground residence in a hollowed out tunnel beneath the stump of a tree I had removed years ago.
When it comes to nature, I have a live and let live policy. (With the exception of snakes, of which I’ve detailed my efforts of removal here many times. I will admit that it is perhaps a character flaw that I cannot share my basement with snakes, but we all have our faults.)
But I let rabbits and deer roam through my back yard and eat the plants and grass. Earlier this year, a pregnant raccoon took up residence under my deck. I gave her wide berth and let her have her babies in peace, after which she moved on. A groundhog promptly took her place, and we nod good morning to one other when I have my coffee on the back deck.
So my natural inclination was to leave the yellow jackets alone and hope they’d do the same. The problem was that this nest was approximately six feet from my front door. Every time I walked out of the house, I was met with a cloud of buzzing wasps. They followed me to my car, and I had to close both the front door to my house and the driver’s side door to my car to keep them from getting in.
As yellow jackets tend to sting you about 500 times instead of just once to make their point, this was an untenable situation.
A friend unhelpfully told me that the only way to get rid of wasps was to pour gasoline down the hole and light the nest on fire. As the nest is, as previously mentioned, six feet from my front door and three feet from the gas meter, this would ensure that I burned both the nest and my house to the ground.
As I live in a townhouse with neighbors connecting to me on either side, I would likely burn the entire neighborhood to the ground. Or blow it up when the gas meter caught fire.
I wasn’t that desperate. Though I heard again and again throughout my struggle that burning the nest was the only option that would work.
I started with natural remedies. One night I waited until they were all cozy in bed for the evening and poured boiling water down the hole.
My friend Ginger and I then filled the hole with baking soda and dumped a gallon of vinegar on it to create a volcanic explosion.
As they swarmed with ever-increasing ferocity, I still managed not to get stung. I moved onto chemicals—powders, foams, and traps to lure them away that all did nothing.
After a morning where they swarmed me and nearly got into the house, I called in the big guns.
It was time to use Terminex, a big chemical company that destroys pests.
They came out at the appointed time and charged me an exorbitant price to treat the hole. They dropped some kind of chemical in there that drove the bees crazy. They told me the bees would swarm around in anger for 24-48 hours before dying off.
Reader, these bees did not die off after 48 hours.
They were still there a week later.
And they were pissed that I had tried to literally exterminate them.
These were bionic bees, incapable of death, and I still think I might have turned into a superhero à la Spider man if one had stung me.
Terminex promised to finish the job but gave me a bit of the run around when scheduling their return date.
Meanwhile, it was open warfare with the bees. I was afraid to open my garage door. I parked the car on the street, away from the nest. When I had to leave the house, I opened the door and made a run for it while they chased after me in a cartoon cloud.
By the time Terminex returned, an even greater foe had finally destroyed the bees.
I haven’t seen them for six days and counting.
I think they’re gone for the winter. And while I won this battle, I have no illusions that I’ve won the war.
This spring, I will await their vengeful return on me and everyone I love….