Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wasp Wars

It was a good thing it was below freezing yesterday morning when I went out to the barn to feed.  It's probably the only reason I didn't get stung a zillion times.
I was on the inside of the barn side of feederbunks, doing my usual morning routine - pitching hay to the cows and high protein screening pellets to the ancient horse, trying to ignore Lucy the Welsummer hen who demands to be at least petted if not picked up and packed around like a pet bunny or something, and avoiding the barn cat trying to trip me, winding in and out of my legs.  When I got to Pony's end of the bunks, the first wasp buzzed me like an F-14D on a strafing run.  I was startled; it was below freezing, and by now, most of the workers should be long dead, only a few hardy queens were still around, trying to find a hibernation spot for the winter.  And then a few more buzzed by.  I watched where they were going/coming from, and was shocked to see an enormous nest - right inbetween two hay bales, right where I had been climbing around on the hay all summer, pulling bales down from all summer, and still doing those things into the fall.  And that nest was alive with workers and queens, and they were reasonably unhappy for some reason.
Tucked into the hay like they were, they were all warm and cozy and probably saw no reason to not continue their lives all winter as they did all summer.  Now, in general I have zero love for those creatures; overly cantankerous, they will hunt you down and sting you for absolutely no reason.  Poor Gem the BC got one tangled up in her fur on her back leg that stung her Lord knows how many times before I found it and killed it. The only good they do is pollinate the melons and pumpkins, but I do have the Bee Girls for that, altho the wasps do a better job.  Otherwise, we keep cans of spray close to hand everywhere during the summer - two on the tractor, several in the puttputt, a couple in the greenhouse, under the gazebo by the greenhouse, on the deck, in the dog run, etc.  We buy it by the case every year and go thru several cases a summer.
I texted Dale that we had a BIG problem in the barn, and he arrived with two cans to augment the two in the barn.  I was pretty sure that a flamethrower was the better choice to battle these unhappy little monsters.  They had a large hole on the bunk side and a smaller 'escape hatch' on the chicken coop side of the hay stack.  He hit the bunk side opening first, which of course made them even more angry than they already were, then we went to the other side and foamed that hole as well.  NOW they were beyond mad.  So, Dale thought it a good time to take the 12' 2X4 laying there and push over the bales on top of the nest to expose it to the cold and spray.  Which he did.
By the time we escaped out of the barn, we both had furious little buggers on our clothes, trying to sting us thru the layers.  And more were coming after us.  We were OUTSIDE the barn, a relatively long way from the scene of the carnage, and they were STILL hunting us down!!  We got them off of us while heading for the gate to the pasture, hoping that was far enough to discourage pursuit.
We figured to give the nest time to get cold and the angry mob a chance to either freeze to death or at least slow down enough we could finish them off, so we headed in to town for a quick bite to eat.  The entire time, we were both jumpy about anything little thing that felt like something on our clothes or body, especially me.  I love my Bee Girls, but they are, for the most part, gentle, docile, accepting of my being around the Bee Box, and not much likely to go all commando on me.  Unlike these guerilla fighters.
When we got back, Dale suited up in the bee suit, I duct taped every loose opening I could (it's an old suit, and the elastic isn't anymore), he armed himself with two fresh cans of spray, and I brought up the rear with camera and three backup cans.  By now, the cold and spray from this morning had pretty well decimated the population, so we finished the nest off, took it outside and mercy killed the remaining queens and workers.  With no place warm to call home, the rest would have succumbed to the cold last night and this morning.
Of course, now every time I go near that hay stack, I'm gonna be just a little bit gun shy.....


  1. That's a monstrous nest! How are you going to get rid of the poisoned hay?

  2. The only things besides the wasps that are affected by it, and then only when it's wet and within 12 hours of application, are fish. Years ago we were cleaning tub old hay in the barn and uncovered the Godzilla Nest. We sprayed the hell out of it that night and a few weeks later, the cows owned by a neighbour went in and ate all that hay. No ill effects but I had called the manufacturer and asked. It'll be at least a month before I get to that hay.

  3. Man oh man, that was a nightmare colony. No wonder the wasp traps were always full.