Hide in the bathroom until winter

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foggy woodsSpooky fog this morning.

oakOak and spider webs.

Which brings up the whole subject of creepy-crawly things.

I took a children’s literature class once. I read this poem. It was written by a five-year-old girl…

bugs & ants

This child was onto something.

Our house is old, and we live with our share of creatures inside which are actually the sorts of creatures that belong outside.  And for the most part I can deal with it. I tend to let them live, but I evict them. I throw them out to struggle on their own in the great outdoor world– (sort of like I eventually did with the children).

I make exception for wasps.

I always kill wasps in my house because I’ve learned that if I don’t kill them they sting me. It is really just that simple. Survival of the swatter.

Speaking of wasps, I currently have this little wasp problem.

In my neighborhood we have a wasp called yellow jackets, and they live in holes in the ground. They are cantankerous beasts, most especially at this time of year when their happy homes are crowded with thousands of occupants, all hungry, and every one of them apparently grumpy. Could be they’re not getting enough sleep or maybe someone else ate the last piece of dead squirrel or they can’t find the remote, who knows? But they are meanie-bugs.

max & tubMax has learned to avoid them.

Once a wasp stung him  inside his mouth and I thought he was dying until I finally figured out what was making him jump around like that.  Now if he detects a yellow jacket getting too close he runs indoors and hides in the bathroom.

So this week I was out in my wild woods garden, which I have somewhat neglected this year, and I was being so good, cutting back dead perennials, and watering, and working hard. Suddenly there were rather more wasps in the air than I found to be entirely comfortable.

yellow jacket ground nest

That’s when I noticed the funnel of them coming and going from a rather large hole in the ground.

At that moment I decided, very quickly, that the woods garden didn’t need my attention just then. My wheelbarrow and clippers and Max and I made for the house. A near miss. But no! OW! A sting on my leg! Little beastie crawled up my pant leg somehow. #!*%$@!!


This is when it is well to have grown onions. You slice off a chunk of fresh onion and hold it against the sting and it makes the pain go away almost immediately. Just so you know.

But the larger problem is the 15,000 or so wasps in the ground outside.

I did some reading. The wasp nests grow like plants all summer, and by now they are enormous, so that it is actually dangerous to try to spray them.  (I hate pesticides anyway.)  Their house can be in layers, feet deep into the earth, and at this time of year they are frantically foraging and will take no crap from anybody about anything. Most bug people say to just wait until the freezing temperatures kill them off because right now it’s very difficult and can go quite badly for guess who.

But next year, in early spring, we can set traps to eliminate the new queens, who will have spent a cozy winter under our roof shingles or someplace and will be out with bug real-estate agents in maybe April looking for new expandable underground housing. When the queen and her agent stop for lunch in the trap that will be that.  (The traps are baited specifically for wasps, so our nice bees will not be tempted.)


In the meantime, they are Out There, like vampires, or zombies, marauding around, mad. No more alfresco dinners! Even sitting in the lawn swing is taking your life in your hands.

But rain is coming today, and cooler air, and soon frost, and freezing rain, and snow and maybe record low temperatures… (Great big burly winter is on my side!)

About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in insects, Max the Westie and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Hide in the bathroom until winter

  1. Angie Case says:

    Ick and double ick! I was stung the other day too, picking up the hose to water. The tissues in the palm of my hand were angry and sore for a couple of days. Wish I had known about the onion juice. I used plain old mud until it had cooled somewhat and then washed and wrapped it in comfrey. We have them bad too. Never thought of old man winter as an ally before! Are you aware of how they tell each other about the offender in their territory? They literally go back to the nest and “tell” each other via pheromones! Rendering you much safer in the bathroom with Max! Your garden pictures are awesome my friend. Wishing you a snuggly Autumn!

    • linniew says:

      Yes Angie, soon all the stingy bugs will be in stingy bug heaven and Max & I can emerge. Yippee!
      Pheromones reminds me of iphones. I wonder if the pheromones ever drop calls…

  2. Alberto says:

    That wasp is horribly huge!!!
    Do you have werewolves too?!

    I wonder what you’ll be up to for Halloween…

  3. I don’t have much of a problem with bugs and they don’t bother me, all except for slugs. I have childhood memories of the way they squirm just before they squish when you step on them by mistake in bare feet usually at night. I thought you would want me to share that image with you!

    • linniew says:

      Yes Carolyn, I’m just so glad to have the squished slug element added to the killer wasp post. Together with the spiders, we’ve probably covered just about every last phobia. Think of all those crowded bathrooms!

  4. Ben says:

    I used a natural spray once to get rid of a large yellow jacket nest in my front landscaping.. It turns out that mint oil kills most wasps almost immediately. You can get wasp spray that is essentially fizzy mint oil and water in a pressurized can (the one I got could shoot over 10 feet). It’s absolutely non-toxic and even smells nice when you spray it. The trick is getting the mint spray into the nest instead of just soaking the entrance. Your plan of leaving them alone might be simpler but I thought I’d share the mint oil trick since it worked so well for me.

    This is the kind I used:


    • linniew says:

      Hi Ben
      I love the mint oil idea. I will pack it away in my quiver for spring. For the nest out there now I think I would want a spray that goes maybe 100 feet and then turns a corner and goes down another ten… But if some of next year’s queens do manage to set up housekeeping I can imagine the mint oil spray would be perfect for a smaller, earlier season nest, and I would much prefer it to the usual poisons.

      You can bet I will be vigilant next year. And I learned online that you can actually locate nests by putting out something they like to eat and then watching where they go after munching. They fly straight home, and if you watch for a while, with the light behind the wasps as they fly, it is supposed to be possible to locate the nest. (I will be calling you to come do this while I wait in the bathroom with Max.)

  5. Sheila says:

    Yellow jackets are meanies. They have a sense of irony, too. I was stung earlier this summer by about five of them when I stepped on their nest while hanging a “Certified Wildlife Habitat” sign on a tree. Wish I had known about the onion then!

  6. Cathy says:

    Thanks for the onion hint! That’s a keeper. I’ve had a few wasp stings and they are terribly painful.

    We have yellow jackets here too…. VERY nasty. We have a lot of bees and the bees never sting. We have honey bees from the neighbors’ and carpenter bees. But the wasps, OMG, they bite AND sting. They are vicious.

    A couple of years ago the YJ’s got into our house…. the plumber installed a pipe that came through the house to the back but neglected to caulk the opening. We were lying in bed one night and could here this unbelievable buzzing. I wanted to get up, throw on a robe, and run, not walk, to the closest hotel. Immediately. DH (Darling Husband most days, Darn Husband that one) laughed and rolled back over and WENT TO SLEEP. He said, they’re in the wall, they can’t get into the bed room. You should have heard them, and he expected me to just go to SLEEP! I had an exterminator here by 9 the next AM.

    What the exterminator told us was to always wait until dark to get rid of small nests and be really vigilant in the spring. He came during the day and got totally garbed up in protective gear. He treated, then retreated a week or two later, and we’ve had a few each spring but DH stays on top of it. They nest in the eaves and the grill and on the inside of the umbrella, and as soon as DH sees a nest, he goes out at night and sprays them.

    I must tell you, that first picture, the tree with the fog, is fabulous! That would make a terrific Halloween card!

  7. Roberta says:

    I am terrified of any sort of flying stinging thing. God help us.

  8. kininvie says:

    Dear Linnie, I am sorry to hear of your wasp problem. That’s what comes of growing all that fruit. Anyway, there’s an easy solution to wasps in the ground. Wait until they are all asleep (They don’t leave night-time sentries, as far as I know), go out with a torch and a nice flat slab of concrete or similar. Place slab on hole. Go back to bed. I am sure you have thought of this. Better still, tempt Tillie into doing it for you. Not, perhaps a nice way to treat them – but then they are wasps after all. Wasp nests in bushes or trees are a different matter. A shotgun (again at night) usually works. I am sure you have a shotgun?

    • linniew says:

      Hi Kininvie
      I do appreciate your thinking about my wasp problem, but something tells me you have never actually tried the concrete slab solution. I would be very surprised if there aren’t sentries, and likely several thousand wasps could just pick up that concrete and throw it back at my house. Or dig exits out from under it. (Tillie has a keen sense of self-preservation; she would never participate in this.) A few cubic yards of liquid concrete might do the trick, but that isn’t very practical and besides I don’t want a patio out there.

      I am afraid that shooting a nest out of a tree recalls to me the metaphor of poking a bees’ nest with a stick.


      PS: I hope your blackthorn curse is going okay… Let me know if you need a shotgun.

      • kininvie says:

        Dear Linnie. Ok, you don’t believe me. I can’t help that, although I take it just a little bit amiss, when I’m trying to be helpful. So how about you pluck up just a little bit of courage, go out in the dark, without the slab, but with a torch and just have a little look to see whether or not your wasps are asleep? I’d do it for you, but it’s not really worth the air fare.

  9. gagarden says:

    Hi Linnie, I like that huge wasp. It is very creatively done. All the photos are really nice. I take the wayward bugs, bees and wasps outside too. I always feel sorry for the spiders though. They always seem like they will be prey for some bird though. Having no home and no wings is a big disadvantage when you are newly released.

    • linniew says:

      The only thing I worry about, when evicting insects, is the weather. If it isn’t cold outside well then maybe they are happy to have a change of scene. In winter I suppose they just find the nearest access and come right back into my house.

      But you are right, I don’t have wings and I have always felt the limitations of that, especially outside. (Sometimes I have flying dreams, which helps a little.)

  10. cynthia says:

    Funny! I wrestle with this phobia of flying, stinging creatures. As a gardener, shouldn’t I be more accepting of the denizens of the outdoors? Here, our main creature is the red wasp. Though we also have the tarantula hawk wasp – now that’s a fun one. Luckily, neither are terribly aggressive.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Cynthia
      No you should not be more accepting of bitey mean bugs. Other bugs, yes.
      I cannot even imagine the tarantula hawk wasp and I am afraid, just now, to look it up online — good heavens. Glad it’s not aggressive, the name is enough.

      Hey we could make up scary bug names! —Elongated Blood Spider, Orange Vulture Fly, Creeping Stinging Skunk Wasp

  11. Grace says:

    Wowzers! You’ve got the biggest yellow jackets on the planet! No wonder Max runs for the bathroom! That hole in the ground is a great photo. I bet you had your ZOOM on full throttle. One time I was so pissed at a yellow jacket hole that I decided I was going to lay a brick over it. Well, you guessed it. I was stung on the finger holding the brick. I dropped it and ran to the house, crying. Well not really crying. Not that much anyway. Well maybe a little. They really don’t like to be messed with. You know what Sharon Lovejoy calls those horizontal webs? Faerie handkerchiefs. I’ve got them all over my yard too. I don’t like fall or winter but you bring up a good point. The upside of the cold weather is that it kills those mean bugs.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Grace– I guess it’s time for me to admit that I didn’t take the photo of the terrible nest. No, I was inside, having a beer in an undisclosed location… Brave Mr. O ventured out, and yes he certainly did have the telephoto lens on the camera. It was almost more than I could do just to edit the photos he took– I kept feeling like the wasps might crawl off the screen kind of. That story of the brick incident sounds terrible… I like “faerie handkerchiefs” very cute and romantic.

  12. This made me laugh – “Survival of the Swatter”.

  13. Lyn says:

    What a terrifying post (especially that poem – creepy). Come to Australia – no yellow jackets! Okay, we have the odd deadly spider… a few poisonous snakes… jellyfish that can kill you with a touch.. ditto blue-ringed octopus.. oh, yeah, and crocodiles, sharks, … er, maybe you’re safer where you are.

    • linniew says:

      Yikes! Clearly we all have our local horrors. I guess I shouldn’t have written such a scary post when it isn’t even Halloween yet. Or maybe this will sort of get everyone into shape for my favorite holiday…

  14. David says:

    That mint oil sounds quite interesting. Thanks for the link.

    A firm believer in organics, I’ve made exceptions for stinging insects and poison ivy. One night with the flashlight I poured a quart of gasoline into a yellow jacket ground nest. No need to light it. But I moved away quickly and didn’t come back to check till the following day.

    Glad someone mentioned doing it at night. That’s pretty important as all the insects are back in the nest, not out working and soon to come home.

  15. Carolyn♥ says:

    Onion… nice. I shall try that. Our yellow jacket population has been diminished considerably by the “Spring” method. It was either them or us that had to leave.

    • linniew says:

      That testimonial to the effectiveness of the “Spring” method (great name) makes me very happy Carolyn. I will be equipped and ready early. (Let the wild rumpus begin!)

  16. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – sorry to read about your wasp problem, especially the enormous one.
    I’m finding it difficult to get that child’s poem out of my head – it applies to so many things, not just bugs and ants.

  17. Greggo says:

    Wasps. Red Hornets. Catchers Mitt Hand.

  18. Holleygarden says:

    I agree that yellow jackets are just plain mean. But I didn’t know about the onion. Great tip! I hope that big wasp doesn’t fly off with Max!

  19. Alistair says:

    Now, that is one monster wasp which I am glad not to have to contend with. I will keep your onion remedy at hand though.

  20. Can that bee picture really be real?

    • linniew says:

      Of course Catherine. On my blog, everything is real. But then the rules, or you might say the laws of science, are a little different here… But once you get used to them you will never want to go back. Or maybe that’s just me.

  21. Fay says:

    I don’t care for wasps, or other buzzy insects. Run I say, very fast.

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