Warrior Ant Press Chief Financial Officer embroiled in sting operation.
Now that you're finally out of the house and away from the Michael Phelps Olympics® you can try something else. Pulling weeds is one thing I've been doing. And we've found ourselves smack dab in the middle of an ongoing sting operation. Twice within the past week, we were stung by wasps while pulling weeds.
Paper wasps like to build in protected areas which is one reason you often see their nests hanging from eaves, inside sheds, or hanging from the corners of a doorway. This nest was tucked deep in a flowerbed. There's a trumpet vine that overhangs part of this bed so it's shady and quiet, a perfect spot to build your wasp home - until the human ogre comes lumbering along - and then you must protect it AT ALL COSTS.
Last week, as I approached a tall weed, suddenly I was repeatedly stung on the thigh until I sounded...RETREAT! It's rare to be stung in the garden so this one left me a bit perplexed. The sting left a 1 mm sting mark and a pretty good welt and all I was able to see of the wasp was blue flash which I took to be from a cricket-killer. But cricket-killers don't possess a very toxic venom, crickets being small creatures, and this sting had the earmarks of a yellow jacket or ground hornet. I saw no yellow on the body so I was pretty sure it wasn't one of those.
Once I accidentally ran a lawn mower over a ground hornet nest and let me tell you, the Briggs and Straton 3.5 HP engine first got their attention, and then a dozen or so ground hornets attached by stingers to my leg quickly got my attention. I was drawn from lawn moving reverie to shrieking panic, terror, and pain in seconds.
Yesterday I went back to the garden, still being very wary of the previous week's outcome and still not knowing there was a nest located in the middle of the garden bed. After pulling weeds around the edges for 10 minutes or so and constantly looking for wasps, I stick my hang out, and suddenly ZZZZZ, OUCH! Again? Why'd you do that? I shouted to no one.
Paper wasps are some of the more aggressive defenders of their homes and can detect movement as far away as 20 feet. Once they determine that you're a threat, they dispatch the stinger missiles.
So, after my mid-morning weed-pulling venture was disrupted again, the problem was finally located - paper wasps in the coneflowers! A warrior ant quick-strike unit was quickly dispatched to deal with the small, but quickly growing threat. It turned out to be a bit like the Russian Army confronting the break-away Georgian republic. No contest.
We pulled a trick from our bag, which Granny once taught us. It's known as the flaming-comet-from-outer-space (my term, not Granny's). It works like this. Open a small paper lunch bag and place it over the end of a hoe. Then crumple a sheet of newspaper inside the paper bag so that the bag stays on the hoe and you can hold it at a safe distance from your body. Next add a few drops of kerosene (or gasoline) to the newspaper (these are for the special flaming comet effects).
Then light the bag (stand back for the POOOOF!) and make sure it's burning pretty well before sending the flaming ball into orbit just underneath the wasps nest. Make sure you do this quickly or you will start a fire in your garden and be unable to put it out because a nest of angry paper wasps will be vigorously stinging you into anaphylactic shock.
Some people use pesticides, I use a flame-thrower. As did Granny.
Later, however, when I learned that these were native paper wasp,Polistes fuscatus aurifer, rather the introduced European paper wasp, Polistes dominulus I felt bad about doing this. Apparently the European wasps, like so many other invasive species, have largely over-taken the natives. European paper wasps become more active earlier in the spring and thus tend to overtake the range of the natives and are forcing them out.
One way to tell the native from the European is that the natives build nests that hang down. They are very umbrella-like in shape. The European nests may hang down, or the side, and occur in a variety of shapes. The European wasps also have yellow bands across their abdomen, which gets them mistaken frequently for yellow-jackets, which they are not. The native paper wasps do not yellow markings.
Next time, if I can figure out a way to relocate the nest without ending up in the emergency room, I'll try to move it to the woods across the street, but there's something about trying to move wasps that inherently vigorously defend their territory that just seems to be a project-with-an-bad-ending waiting to happen.
Bees stings, for me, itch. Not as bad, or as long a chigger bites, but they itch for about a week or so. So now I have the summer trifecta. Chigger bites. A few bees stings. And a little poison ivy for good measure. Last night I went for the nest of ants. The ants bite, but at least they don't itch for a week. Ahhh summer.