Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Yellow Jacket War.

I am a live-and-let-live creature.  I do not kill venomous snakes. I allow weeds and other plants free reign to grow where ever nature dictates and not I. My plan was to move out into the country and live in peace. I did not move out here to declare war on nature.

Yet recently I have decided to cut a trail around the property so the mutts can walk around and see their feet and I can walk around and see the mutts. Things had gotten very distinctly bushy.  So I made a trail and wouldn’t you know it? A tree died right there close to the trail. And to make matters worse it didn’t actually fall but rather it just broke at the bottom and leaned over on another tree. I took the axe and hit it a couple of times and it slipped. The third time I hit it the thing fell over and all sorts of hell broke loose at once.

I once was a land surveyor so I knew what it was the second they hit. Yellow Jackets! Small yellow and black wasps that live in paper nests underground. They are vicious and they are tenacious. I had shooed the dogs away from where the tree was so they didn’t get stung. I counted five stings on my right arm, one on my face and one on my right side.

I could see the Yellow Jackets boiling around their nest like a cloud of smoke. I had dropped the axe out there and I knew I would have to wait until dark to retrieve it. I did not want to go near that nest again in the daylight. I did want to creep up on it and try to find out where they were coming out of the ground. I got within about twenty feet when Lucas decided to wander right into the middle of everything.  I yell about the time they hit him and we both run like hell.

I have no idea how many times Lucas got hit but I picked up a couple of more stings and I also got pissed. Clearly, these were insects who were not interested in some division of the property in the name of coexistence. They meant to kill me and the mutts or drive us away from the trail.  Okay, that simplifies things somewhat.

I wrapped up in a coat, put a scarf around my face and got out a can of raid. I walked right up to them with the can held at arm’s length with my finger on the button all the way in. Yeah, that’s right; a hammer- down- right- to- the- front- gate- frontal assault and may the best man win.  This wasn’t that high powered wasp spray, oh no, all this was is the flying insect stuff. But I figured if I waded right into them I could get to their front door before they got me.

They dinged me three more times but I got up close and personal with their main entranceway.  They had occupied an old stump which is a great place to live if you’re a Yellow Jacket but that also means that if you’ve gone to war with your local Firesmith he’s only got that one tool and all the problems look exactly the same.

There’s an old metal yard cart that I have had for years and I built a fire in it with leaves and sticks. I pushed the cart up to the stump then lifted the fire out of the cart with my gloves on. I got popped a couple of more times, sure, but this was going to be the every last time.

I can have fire.

Whatever else they might be, Yellow Jackets are small winged insects. It matters not at all, to fire, how well armed they might be.  Historically speaking, fire wins when the two go to battle and I wasn’t done yet. I started hammering away at the stump, tearing it apart and adding more stuff to the fire, and trying to figure out exactly where they were. They came back to the nest in droves and they died trying. Oddly, once the smoke and flames started getting up they gave up fighting me.

I’m just getting warmed up.

There are many things I do not know about how these creatures live or die, but I know fire. I know a good hot fire will suck the oxygen out of a hole and I know carbon monoxide will fill low places before oxygen will. I know that the heat will kill and I know smoke will smother.  I don’t have to know much else in this case because what I know will work.  I slam the shovel down over where I think the hive is and I hear buzzing. There are many of them in there and none of them are happy. Ten minutes later I try again and this time there is silence. I try again in another ten minutes and there is more silence.

The nest is directly over where the hottest part of the fire is so when I start digging I have to be careful not to get burned. Forget any visions that you have of an angry swarm of Yellow Jackets boiling out to seek revenge on me. They’re dead. They’re very dead. My fire has sucked the life out of them and my smoke has choked them. Lucas stands nearby with his head down, waiting. It’s an odd thing, what Lucas is doing.  He has no idea at all as to what is going on but he’s locked and loaded. You do not want a dog that size with that look on his face and his body poised like that aimed at you. He doesn’t like the fire and doesn’t like the Yellow Jackets but I’m in the middle of this…whatever this is…Lucas is ready.  

That’s why they have to die. Because Lucas is ready to and before I let a bunch of damn bugs kill my dog I will stand in shin deep fire and I will dig their home up out of the ground. Peace and harmony, living with nature, one with the Universe, we will discuss it later.  Right now I’m going to kill something.

The dollar bill is there for scale. It is six inches long.

Note the still living larve

I tried to reconstruct it the way it came out of the ground. 

The nest comes up in pieces and there are dead Yellow Jackets everywhere. The living have no fight left in them and they buzz harmlessly around. There are at least five levels to this nest and it’s about a two feet long and about half that wide. The Yellow Jacket War is over now. The trail can be completed. Lucas has been avenged.

Take Care,


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Damn, I've seen (felt) a lot of yellow jackets, but never a nest that big.

    1. This is a pretty good sized nest, for certain, but I have seen bigger.

  3. "They meant to kill me and the mutts or drive us away from the trail."
    Definitely kill, they don’t drive.
    By the size of the nest, I’d say they’ve been there awhile. I guess you hadn’t pissed them off until you started chopping.
    Chop – Klaxton, Alert, Alert.
    Chop – Battle Stations, Battle Stations.
    Chop – Attack, Attack, Kill, Kill.

    1. It rained three inches yesterday in two hours.

      The nest site looks like a quagmire with a lot of ashes.

      Ever else may be...they aren't.