Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wasp Wars

This summer has been a continuous battle with red wasps (Polistes carolina). There are several spots on the eaves of the camp house that permit them entrance to very nice covered areas to build their nest. They say they're not aggressive unless you tamper with there nest, but I beg to differ. They come after me without provocation. Maybe they’re attracted to the bright colored t-shirts I’m fond of or maybe they just don’t like me coming anywhere near their nest. A pail* of these rusty-colored insects are usually hanging out at the nest’s entrance at the ready for any trespasser that comes near.

And when a threat is identified they release an alarm pheromone that alerts others of the colony causing aggressive behavior towards any intruder. By the way, it is the infertile females that help in the building and defending of the nest. The males or drones only mate and are stingerless. Normally if it were anywhere else I would probably allow them to thrive, but they’re in a high risk area and there’s a chance of my grand-daughter being stung and the threat of anaphylactic shock. So far I haven’t been stung, but I have been tapped on the head several times when I’ve invaded their comfort zone. Had I not been wearing a hat they probably would’ve become tangled in my hair and stings would’ve surely followed. A gauntlet had been thrown down on the ground before me and I was forced to do something. I did what I could, but without being able to get to the nest and saturate it with spray I'm peeing in the proverbial wind.

I retrieved the dead with a pair of tweezers, because even though they’re no longer with us their stinger is still active and can deliver a sting for up to an hour after death. I’ll have to wait until this fall, when they're less of a threat to seal up every crack and crevice that allows them access to the eaves and hope for a wasp-free summer next year.

(*pail- a company of wasps)



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