My Friday Night Date With a Hornets’ Nest
By Cam Mather
As you might have read in a previous post, I recently had a rather painful experience with some yellow jackets. I was weeding my strawberry patch and unfortunately didn’t realize that there were a nest of them nearby and they didn’t take kindly to me disturbing them. I tried eradicating them by dumping soil on their nest but it didn’t work. The problem wasn’t going away. So last Friday night I resolved to tackle it head on, after dark.
Friday Night is pizza night at our house. This is a tradition many North Americans follow, but I was actually the one who started it several decades ago. Some people might dispute this, but it was in fact me. Living 45 minutes from the nearest city, there is no pizza delivery here so Michelle and I make our own. Right now most of the ingredients come from the garden (although we haven’t managed to get an olive tree started yet) and it’s a solar powered pizza. In the winter we cook our pizza in the propane oven, but right now with so much sunshine to charge up our batteries we are able to use a small convection toaster oven. We managed to find a toaster oven with a rounded back so that we can actually fit a small pizza pan into it!
It’s sooooooooo cool! I absolutely love it. I’m cooking with zero carbon being produced. No fossil fuels have had to be pumped out of the ground, and no carbon dioxide will end up in the atmosphere when we’re done. On sunny days in the summer, living off the grid is a dream come true for me. And best of all, with the sun still on the solar panels until 7 pm or so, I’m not even tapping into the batteries to cook with, it’s coming right from the sun. Pizza’s is my favourite food. I could be a pizza-tarian. Solar Powered Pizza is outta-this-world great!
Then we watched “Date Night” with Tina Fey and Steve Carrel, which was a great movie. Tina Fey is my hero and I was concerned that having the stars of two of my favorite Thursday night comedies suddenly playing husband and wife was going to be a stretch, but it was a good movie.
If you sense I am stalling when it comes to dealing with the hornets, you’re right. Just as I was stalling on Friday night. When it was finally dark I got suited up. One of the neat things about blogging is that it’s a great way to learn things. Readers often comment on my blogs to share their experiences. When I blogged about my fear of hornets and being annoyed when one stung me while I was wearing my yellow shirt, thereby showing solidarity with the “yellow jackets” a reader informed me that yellow is the worst color you can wear around hornets. Lesson learned. I guess you just look like the big kid on the block and they want to take you down. My neighbor Ken used to say this when he worked at Millhaven Maximum Security Prison. Ken was in charge of maintenance there, and I always assumed that he had nothing to worry about because he’s 6’5” and I figured no one would be stupid enough to take a run at him. He said that often the strategy with new inmates is to take on the biggest guy on the range to show everyone you’re not afraid of anyone. Apparently, hornets think like inmates. Maybe they thought I looked like I was impersonating John Belushi from his Saturday Night Live “Killer Bee” sketch and was mocking them.
So after dark I tucked my pants into my work boots, put on two shirts and my bug hat. I went with the yellow long sleeved shirt since it was dark and they couldn’t see me. The nest was an underground burrow, which they built under one of my rotten hay bales. When I moved the bale they formed a new entrance. I walked to the nest and there was no activity. So I shoveled some soil in the area of the hole and then I stomped on the nest. Well, I sort of stomped on the nest. On the first time I stomped once and then ran like hell. Think about it – who steps on a hornet’s nest intentionally? I walked back slowly to be sure they weren’t out, and then I did it again, this time stomping twice. Then running like hell. This went on for about 10 minutes until I had jumped on it about 10 times on the final shot. I continued to hear buzzing on the 2nd and 3rd attempts, but eventually I couldn’t hear any more activity.
This was one of those times that I felt good about my heart, because at the rate that mine was beating, if it didn’t explode I figure I’m good for another 50 years. I was terrified! It didn’t help that it was a hot humid night and under two layers of clothing and my bug hat the sweat was pouring off of me.
I thought it was funny that the nest was located right near where we had seen a momma and baby bear in the spring. I honestly believe that I would have been less frightened to chase the bears away. Bang some pots, make some noise, and usually bears will amble off. But these hornets, they’re not going anywhere, except after tender spots like your ear lobes.
The next morning there were a couple of rogue hornets around the nest but I think they were ones that had been out partying the night before and got locked out. And yes, I was able to dispose of them too. Sorry, but I had to weed that area if I want to have strawberries next year. I generally believe in the “live and let live philosophy” when it comes to wildlife, but they picked the wrong spot. It’s like mice. I have no problem with mice, until they come into the house. Then they’re fair game. In the fall, they move in, in great numbers. It’s a 100+-year-old farmhouse, and there are lots of holes they can fit through. Our well-fed cats catch a few of the mice but they can’t keep up. So every fall out come the Victor traps. Fast and humane. Same design from 100 years ago. They really haven’t figured out a way to build a better mousetrap.