Thursday, May 1, 2008

To Kill or Not to Kill the Yellowjackets

I'm having my first insect eco awareness crisis. Usually, I'd have already sprayed the growing nests in the corner of my fence, between the planks and the corner post. This corner, where the wasps are congregating, is sorta out of the way, about 8' from the garden path. But I'm terribly afraid of them, much more so then pretty much any other insect, including bees. When I was pulling weeds yesterday a wasp buzzed right by me a few times--was I too close? I was not too close--it's my yard.

So, do I leave them be (er, wasp), and hope they keep bad insects at bay and / or do some pollinating? Do I try to ignore my huge fear? Or, do I just do what most people do and Raid their nest?

I don't know if I've suddenly become too sensitive on this issue and now what was once a simple decision becomes a long drawn out reflection and blog entry. It's silly, really. I'm a fairly decisive person, mainly because I get impatient about such trivial things. (I may already be walking outside to spray, then.) Some will laud my careful feelings, but I don't want to be praised--I want to be normal. I want to be fast--this whole thing makes me feel slow, older, too methodical, unwilling to move on (this is not meant as a shot at people older than me, just an awareness of my changing perspectives and priorities in the world).

I blame this squarely on Douglas Tallamy and his Bringing Nature Home. Oh, and Wild Flora.

11 comments:

mr_subjunctive said...

Tit for tat, maybe? They can stay so long as they don't hurt anybody? Wouldn't apply if you knew of someone in the area who was allergic, I suppose, but barring that. . . .

garden girl said...

Yellow jackets are the one and only exception to my rules for myself of organic only. I was attacked by a swarm of them about 25 years ago when I was pregnant with my second daughter. They got under my shirt and under my jeans and stung me more times than I could count. It was extremely painful, not to mention terrifying. And maybe it's just a coincidence, but my daughter was born with a birth defect that would have occurred at that exact time of my pregnancy.

Since then I've been stung by yellow jackets multiple times, and I don't react well to them. I've tried traps, there's always more where they came from, and I still have gotten stung even with multiple traps, plus other things I don't want to hurt get stuck in the traps. My middle daughter is deathly allergic to them, and they seem to like stinging her too. I will live peacefully with pretty much everthing else, but if I find a yellow jacket nest, I get out the big guns. Sorry! And I only feel a little guilty about it.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Anything that makes it to my address gets to live unless the bite or sting me or one of my boys. Then all bets are off and I will drench the nest with soapy water.

Jane Marie said...

I was attacked by a swarm when I was 5. Stings all over my face and hands. I've been afraid of any kind of bee for years and have only recently gotten used to honey bees and bumblebees. I say get rid of them.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I like the flooding with water idea. How far away can you stand and still reach their nest with your hose?

(Double-check this, but I believe that they're not as active first thing in the morning, especially after a cool night. That might give you a fighting chance to get away...)

ourfriendben said...

I say, death to the evil empire!!! Yellowjackets are the only insects I know of that appear to attack and sting for the sheer hell of it. I've dealt with them in the past by tearing down their nests, which are usually in the chicken coop, as soon as I see them. but last year, I guess the chickens must've finally wise dup and eaten them--I didn't have any! We'll see what happens this year.

WiseAcre said...

They're cute and fuzzy. Go right up and knock off the nest with your hand then step on it. They won't mind.

I do what BSG suggests - use the hose on the nest to knock it down then run like mad. This works best with a helper who doesn't know what you're about to do and is also considerably slower than you.

Once the wasps/bees have gotten the attention of your helper use a shovel to destroy the nest with a quick run by smack. Don't stop until well past any observers that have gathered by now.

I don't mind sharing the earth with them but they do need to be reasonable about it. If I'm going natural then they better do the same. They can go hug a tree instead of my eaves.

Kim said...

I react, so I would have someone get rid of them. Bees are welcome. Wasps? NO.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Wow!! I've had so many comments! Who knew???

Mr. Past Participle--Tit for tat indeed. I just wish they knew what'd happen if they got aggressive, then I would at least feel human, like I gave them fair warning.
GG--Oh my goodness how horrible!! I'd imagine there'd certainly be a connection with the birth defects and all those stings. I wonder with your daughter is there's some sort of pheremone that's given off or something. Begs some research, I think.
Debbi--Yes, I think that's a fair rule. It's about time I turn my outside water back on anyway.
Jane Marie--I'm like you, only recently been fairly ok with bees at least. I am because I did research on bumble bees, and how reluctant they are to sting. They're just doing their business--plus, if you get close enough, they give off warning signs with their twitchy legs. Apparently.
Kim (bsg)--I think I heard the same thing aboutthem being slower in the morning. Problem is, so am I!
OFB--Chickens. I need to get chickens! Not only will they eat the wasps, but I can use their feces as fertilizer. SWEET.
WA--If I didn't know you, and wasn't sarcastic myself, I'd follow your advice. Careful careful. But seriously, don't all of god's creatures deserve a great big hug? Go out and hug your trees, coneflowers, ferns, and wasps today.
Kim--Well, my blog entry / straw poll is convincing me to break out the hose....

Blue Fox said...

My favorite method of wasp killing is to kill with kindness and give them a sweet death - I mix up some old cooking wine or other alcoholic beverage with a good dollop of raspberry jam, put it in a tall 2 liter wine bottle and let 'em have at it. I think that's only fair after all. The worst stings I've had, and which I'm really reactive to, are from the little black solitary wasps. I don't try and kill them as they're such good pollinators, but the sting is incredible. It must have cancer fighting properties at the very least!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Fox--That seems like a fair way to go about it. I know I'd want to go out well--maybe not in a wine / jam concoction, though. :)