Monday, September 15, 2014


Who pays much attention to a small hole in the ground? Especially when you have stupid colonies of moles burrowing under your front yard or visiting armadillos that love to dig small holes foraging for food after dark and get all your dogs going because they can see them. 

Obviously, we don’t pay a great deal of attention to them.

My husband decided the grass needed mowing after a week of rain. Yeah, the grass was definitely growing tall even though it had been cut two weeks before. We usually mow the grass about every week when we get a lot of rain and every other week when it’s drier. We don’t use a push mower because our yard takes up almost an acre. We have a riding mower. Love my John Deere.

Since I had to work most of this weekend Dan decided to do the mowing Sunday afternoon and told me to go take a nap. Perfect suggestion to me, thanks honey. When I’m tired I tend to nap about an hour and a half and I sleep pretty deep and I was very tired. I fell asleep to the sounds of the mower and the smell of cut grass.

An hour later I’m suddenly awakened by screams. To be precise my husband’s screams of pain. That’s a heart-thumping guarantee to awaken anyone. One moment you’re asleep and the next you’re hyper alert and ready for battle. Having the Danes go off with serious barking didn't help. By the time I get out of the bed room Dan had made it to the north side of the house, still screaming, and around to back. I look out the window and the mower is abandoned but upright. My mind has a couple of seconds to figure out the probable cause of the ruckus. Bees. Well, to be specific, yellow jackets.

Sure enough, he has a small cloud of them flying behind him. I had no idea if he hit a ground nest or there was a nest in branches of the lilac bushes that go across the front of the yard. Dan made it to the back door and dashed in. Yellow Jackets pinged against the glass door. 

I had already gotten down the antihistamines and starting a bowl of baking powder paste. He’s not allergic to bee stings but I would rather err on the side of caution and I didn't know how many stings he actually had. Fortunately Dan had on heavy denim knee length shorts and a thick work shirt with a double thick yoke across the back of his shoulders and a good-sized collar. The Yellow Jackets couldn't really penetrate the material well enough to do any real damage and the collar mostly protected the back of his neck and shoulders. He always wears a hat (and glasses) so his face and eyes were safe. There were a few of the nasty things tangled in the thick hair near the back of his neck. We had to get those out. He had several stings on that part of his scalp. Tore the heck out of his lower arm and got him pretty good on one calf and knee. Maybe four or five bites. Most had been on his shoulders where, thankfully, he was protected.

It was a ground nest. Now keep in mind we mow frequently. No attacks two weeks ago when he mowed the same area and in the same way. So either it’s a new nest or more likely, the nest had been there but not on the area we mow but had grown toward the yard since the last time we mowed and with a new entry way there.

Dan’s cussing a blue moon and threatening fire (he’s a secret pyromaniac) and destruction once the sentries went to ground. I’m having a vision of a major fire in the front yard with Dan chanting, burn baby burn

Um, no, sweetheart, no gas and no fire. 

We need to see where the entries are and we can use hot mint soapy water—like we have on a few nests in the past. It works fine and mint oil is very effective in killing bugs or wasps. Then he remembered he had two cans of wasp/bee stream shooters. So he did that followed up with water. Hopefully it worked. I don’t like pesticides because of the animals and if they were to walk in it… and I’m highly allergic to them.

A few years back we had a huge ground nest in the far back corner of the yard. It had several entryways. We figured it was at least four foot wide underground. All I know is it took a long time for the fire to burn out. It’s not good for the ground but Dan had waited until I went somewhere, to grocery store I think, to do the deed. I’d have pitched a fit had I been there.

So the moral of this story is to pay attention to holes in the ground and scope them out to see if there is wasp activity. If there is proceed with caution especially when mowing in the spring or fall. Yellow Jackets are very aggressive in the fall as food becomes less plentiful.

Dan was fortunate because it could have been oh, so much more serious. If he hadn't quickly recognized what was happening and high tailed it out of the area he could have had hundreds of stings instead of fifteen or twenty of them and be spending the night in the hospital instead of snoozing in his recliner.


Stephen Tremp said...

I've been stung by a wasp and man does it hurt. They can sting multiple times. So yeah, call a professional for best results.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia - gosh that must have been frightening to wake up to .. let alone Dan having to deal with the attack ...

I'm glad all is well now ... but as you say keep an eye open for holes in the earth ... I thought you were going to say a snake ...

Thankfully all is well - Hilary

Natalie Aguirre said...

So sorry for your husband and glad you're okay. And I can totally relate. Once I stepped on a nest of wasps and was chased into my house. Totally scary.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Thank goodness for the heavy denim knee length shorts! My dad was attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets once. They are angry creatures!

Karen Walker said...

This story terrifies me. I am so afraid of being stung. So glad Dan is okay.

Yolanda Renee said...

So glad your hubby is fine, but wow did my heart race as I read this. These things terrify me!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

We have the same problem recently except we can't find the nest. My husband and my daughter both got stung when mowing an area we have to trim with the hand mower. My husband is a painter so he always has bee spray. Glad your husband was okay.

~Sia McKye~ said...

STEPHEN--yes, they can sting more than once and they hurt! Professionals are a good call but you have to be careful to get one that knows how to deal with wasps extermination. Especially if you have them nesting in the walls of your house or roof. Normal exterminators tend to block the entry after spraying and it can cause the wasps to find another way out and THAT can be in the house, which is very dangerous.

Bottom line--be careful with your choice of exterminator.

HILARY--Dan hates snakes but snakes are much easier to get away from.

NATALIE--Yep, very scary and like something out of a horror movie.

~Sia McKye~ said...

KEITH--Dan tends to dress with heavier materials when doing any work outside. The denim certainly was a protection as was the shirt and hat. Angry swarm of over protective wasps is terrifying and dangerous. Nasty, nasty things.

KAREN--I can understand that fear. He seemed fine this morning.

YOLANDA--my heart was at a gallop listening to the whole thing. About the only thing I know to do when a swarm is after you is run like hell and then drop to the ground and let them fly over you then get up and hightail it to the nearest safe building. Don't stay in that spot cuz they will get you. They do swing back around because they do notice that the quarry has disappeared. A couple of sentries may still get you but better than the whole swarm. *Shudder*

SUSAN--if you know the general area the wasps are in you can find the ground or tree nest. What you do is stoop down and watch the a section for activity. A pattern. The rising and descending from the nest will be evident--if you're looking for it. It might take a few days of observation to find the nest or pinpoint it. Once you do, carefully mark the area. If it's a ground nest, once you find one entry way you have to find the others and their usually not that far apart. If you're careful you won't disturb the nest.

YOu can either call a skilled wasp exterminator or do it yourself.

Anything to do with eliminating the nest needs to be done at night or evening when all the wasps hunker down in the nest. Wear protective clothing and gloves.

Keep in mind they see yellow light very well so if you use flashlites use a red lens cap--they don't see red well and it will still allow you to see what you're doing. They can't fly well at night because they can't see. You can either spray the nest in the limbs or spray entry holes in the ground. Got to get to all the escape routes--that's what several days of observation will help you locate. If you use spray on all the holes then the they have to touch that to get in and out of the nest and will bring it back to the nest. Most times that takes care of the problem depending upon how big the nest is. If you still see some activity the next day, spray again and then use soapy or soapy minty water at each of the holes. You'll wipe them out. We've had a few yellow jacket ground nest over the years.

Good news is? They tend not to use the same nest the next year. The queen usually leaves and looks for another area for a nest. Any living wasps usually die when she leaves.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Fortunately I've never been attacked or seen a yellow jacket nest. (I'm on the lookout for wasps in the bushes.) Glad he didn't get stung too many times. As much as I would've enjoyed burning them out (we do like our fire) pouring gas down a hole would've made me nervous. I'll remember your trick.

Jo said...

How scary all round. Wasps can be a menace. I remember one year we had a plague of wasps and I got stung lots although not all at the same time. Remember mother making pastry with wasps sitting on her hands. Yuk.

cleemckenzie said...

Oh do I relate to that story. I've been attacked by those guys and it's not fun. Pay attention, indeed! Glad your husband wasn't allergic.