The secret lives of yellow jackets

IMG_0022.JPG Every so often we have a summer so bad all we can do is try to ride it out until things start to change. This has been one of those summers. In addition to the death of my father, three days before the birth of our son, we have also had what we thought were bees in the house. Stephen’s plan was to spray insecticide and consider the situation fixed. I went along with the plan for over a month watching the bees bounce off the walls and die hitting the light fixtures while I fed Nathaniel and tried to watch (bad) television. After a month of two to four bees a day, I had had enough. Stephen caulked the “hole” from the outside and, as I expected, there were more bees… It turns out they weren’t actually coming from all the way outside. The bees appeared more angry than injured and when one flew into Nathaniel’s car seat I thought I might go insane. So in a fit of rage, over the lack of a true solution, I called an exterminator. Little did I know that I was far from a solution… The first exterminator told me they didn’t handle bees and gave me the number for a bee person. I called and they returned my call as Stephen arrived at home. I could overhear parts of the conversation, “I have one here…let me count again…are you sure…” It turns out that the bees were actually yellow jackets, they were in the wall, and we had a few options – find the hive (2,000 – 3,000) by putting holes in the walls or do nothing and wait for them to die in the walls and the ants to eat them. Oh, we were also told that there would be 10,000 of them by October. As a side note, I am very allergic to yellow jackets. I had an allergy test done last year and was told that I needed to start shots. I didn’t because I wanted to get pregnant but I was given an epi pen, which Benjamin quickly threw away in his “the trash can is a nice place to put things” phase (in case you were wondering – Stephen and I did have the “how can you be so allergic and not be doing anything about it argument”). Here was part of our conversation after Stephen spoke with the exterminator.

D: When can they get rid of the yellow jackets? S: They are going to try to come tomorrow or Friday. D: Did you mention I’m highly allergic and we have two small kids? S: No. D: I’m calling them back.

I dropped Benjamin off at day care the next day while Stephen met with the bee guy. Here is one of my calls home (as you might imagine, I called a few times to see how things were going).

D: Did they find them? S: Bad news. He says they are behind the brick of the fireplace so we just sprayed some stuff in one of the holes. D: What! Don’t let him leave until he’s found the yellow jackets. S: You want him to take out the brick? D: I want an end to this. Get rid of the yellow jackets. I don’t care if you have to take out the whole #!@# fireplace.

So, the exterminator had to come back later to remove the bricks, he couldn’t find them, his boss came at the end of the day, he suggested somewhere else. Then the first guy came back on Friday and cut bigger holes in the wall – this time cutting through to the outside – and we spent the weekend listening to yellow jackets hitting the aluminum foil that covered the holes (they can’t chew through the foil). Meanwhile, I called mosquito abatement and talked with their lab person and another exterminator. Oh, I also scheduled an appointment with my allergist who wouldn’t give me another epi pen without seeing me.

It turns out that you have to remove the hive with bees because the honey will rot. With yellow jackets you spray a substance called drion (a neurotoxin and dessicant) at the entrance and the worker bees take it into the hive to kill the queen and larvae. So we had another exterminator spray on Tuesday and we left for Chicago on Thursday with a cupboard full of three epi pens, bendryl (for the kids and me), and steroids for all. On the way to the airport (as we rush to make our flight) I call the woman who cleans our house (every other week – I dream of more help) to tell her not to clean if she sees anything flying around the house, our neighbor who is checking on the cat requesting a call if she sees anything, and our contractor to beg him to caulk before we get home.