Yellow jackets (n): type of wasp which builds nests and lives in tight, social groups; very defensive of their nests; stinger is not barbed, thus can aggressively attack threats to their nests with multiple stings
September is yellow jacket hunting season. That could be interpreted as the yellow jackets are out, on the hunt, looking for late season food sources such as raspberries or my dinner plate; Or, it could be interpreted as this is the time of year that I try to find yellow jacket nests in undesirable places, such as under the deck, porch roof, holes in the ground, the garage, the barn or other places that we are likely to intersect.
This past weekend, I found two nests. One I found, or should I say they found me, just outside the barn door. They had their entrance hole under the frame of the barn, building their next inside an enclosed wall-support space. I happened to be raking up fallen hay by the entrance. They got excited. I got three stings before I backed away and located the risk.
The second was in the shed where I keep the string mower. When I pulled out the mower, I noticed a couple of yellow jackets fly by me. I spotted the nest before they spotted me. I was able to do the mowing, and had a plan to verify the nest when I put the mower away. I pushed the front end of the mower into the he box, dislodged the box, and confirmed that hundreds of yellow jackets were not happy. I had run quickly to a safe viewing distance.
If a yellow jacket nest is safely away from our routes, I leave it alone. They serve a purpose and do not usually bother us, when we stay away from them. Its sort of like identifying the bully up the street and deciding to walk around to another street to avoid him or her.
I do not use poison sprays, as these are only useful when you have a clear shot to destroy the whole nest, then pick up all the poisoned yellow jackets to avoid letting them enter the food chain. The fist nest was inside an enclosed area where we have our ducks. I did not want them eating poisoned yellow jackets.
Plan B, trap them. Yellow jackets are not like swarming bee, which an experienced bee keeper and collect into a box to transfer them to a new hive. Yellow jackets are social insects, like European bee colonies, but not hospitable to people.
In these situations, I try to trap as many of the yellow jackets as possible to deplete the nest, and thereby risk. Have-A-Heart traps are not very useful here. Sticky things are. We have giant fly paper in the barn. It looks like a role of paper towels with a string across the role to hang it up.
I started with the first nest in the barn wall. I unrolled a foot or so of sticky paper, wrapped it back on itself to form a tunnel. I then slid this over to the nest entrance and trotted away. The disturbance of the entrance alerted dozens of yellow jackets which flew out of the entrance, into the sticky tunnel, looking sort of like a scene out of Star Wars in which a bunch of storm-trooper Imperial TIE fighters fly out of a Battle Cruiser and into a Rebel Alliance trap. Anyway, lots of yellow jackets get stuck to the paper, sending some signal of distress which calls more out. I leave it be for a few hours before harvesting the first assault. Tear off the paper with angry, stuck, yellow jackets and repeat the process. Hopefully I am not breading smarter yellow jackets.
Round two. I do about the same with the box full of yellow jackets in the mower shed. This is a little tricker, as the box is about four feet inside the shed. I’m not crawling inside to put down sticky paper, with the belief that I will get out unnoticed. Instead, I suspend my trap on an eight food long pole, dangle it over the box, drop it and run. A couple of hours later, I pick up the box with the eight foot pole, haul it out onto the lawn and run. This is way too fun.
Meanwhile, I am following the latest news from the Middle East.
In some ways, our social units, tribal in orientation, whether a neighborhood, region, sports team (one of our local high schools mascot is the Yellow Jackets), Internet website, etc. seems like a yellow jacket nest. Add some religious fervor for fanaticism. Nationalism is just a European concept that has not fit well when applied a region of yellow jacket nests.
Arabs, Kurds, Taliban, al Qaeda, ISISl do not like their nests disturbed.
In the country, yellow jackets get a long fine, as long as their nests are sufficiently spaced. What becomes a problem is when one nest is too close to another.
The same might apply to our tribes (not just the Afghans to Egyptians). If each had its territory and did not have to interact with the others, we could live peacefully, nibbling on our raspberries and pears.
But, the world, politically, economically, culturally, is not separated. To obtain the materials (minerals, textiles, food, energy supplies) to make the produces we want, we have to interact with other nests. In the process we offend and take offense. We and they might use some version of sticky paper to try to eliminate the intruding nests (IED to drones to sanctions), but as we are seeing, the nest may appear destroyed, but the species survives.
I have no fantasy that should I reduce the threat from my two yellow jacket nests this Fall, that next year I will not have new nests show up.
Was anyone surprised the the Taliban came back?
Don’t worry. The official President of Afghanistan slipped off to some other Midlde-Eastern country, possibly with $168 million in cash (five car loads, as reported in the news). But, the official Vice President has relocated to the Panjshir Valley to connect with the son of a former war-lord (assassinated by al Qaeda) who has an anti-Taliban group waiting to over-throw the Taliban government.
Me? I’ll just looked for more yellow jacket nests next September, get out my sticky paper, drop and run.