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.