The New Marauder

Posted: November 14, 2008 in nature

(Left: Yellow Jacket Pic from a TX wasp resource page)
Well guys… Black Widows are no longer a part of my day to day life. Gone are the shiny black beasts with the beaming red bellies, and here to maraud, I would like to introduce: The Yellow Jacket Wasp. Spiders NEVER freaked me out… I felt terrible ‘eradicating’ the widows, but my childrens’ safety will always come first. I do however have a ginormous fear of wasps… even the ones I know can’t sting me, like the dirt dauber (a beneficial wasp that eats black widow spiders.) There’s something about them that sends me shrieking in fear. That’s right, the black widow lady is horrified of wasps… and bees, and anything that looks or sounds like a wasp or bee. There always seems to be up to 15 on this bush at any given time of day.
Taking these pictures sent shivers down my spine, and I shuddered every time I heard their angry little buzzing.

My sister and I joke that we were traumatized at a young age by our father forcing us to hold honeybees in our hand to prove to us that they were not a threat and that we didn’t have to scream and cry every time we left the house and had to run past our buzzing holly bushes. Imagine an 8 year old crying while holding a honeybee in her hand… that was me. I was never stung and I guess it proved the point that my dad was trying to make. But there where other incidents from my childhood with less positive outcomes. Like when we came running inside from the backyard because we had seen a wasps’ nest on the roof.

My brave dad says, “Remember kids, they only sting if they feel you are a threat. If you don’t get close to them and don’t be afraid they will leave you alone. Here, I’ll show you.”

With that he walked outside as Shay and I watched from the window. It took about three feet and half a turn before he was stung the first time. Right on the neck. Yelling in pain we see his hand fly up to cover the sting as he runs inside. From that moment on wasps have scared the hell out of me.

I have only been stung by a wasp or bee once in my life, right on the thumb, seconds before the start of my first varsity cross-country race. I felt something on my back and I reached around and grabbed it. At first I thought it was a sticker, but of course with the pain I jerked my hand around to see a giant red wasp sticking out of my thumb. My coach told me to run the race anyway and fortunately I did not go into anaphylactic shock. (Not sure if people are allergic to red wasps… but hey, I’m dramatic.)

Everything I’ve ever heard about yellow jackets is bad. Aggressive, colony in the ground or walls, painful sting. At first when they arrived on my holly bush that has been plagued with some sort of insect larvae, I was excited. I thought it might be some sort of beneficial non-aggressive wasp that I could learn to deal with. But after taking these pictures and comparing them with the ones I found online I now know that I have yellow jackets swarming around the bush right next to my front door. We can’t even walk by it without 5 or more ‘flybys.’

Reminds me of those damn holly bushes growing up. Even more discouraging, in Texas because of the mild winters their colonies can survive for several years, and their nests can grow to be enormous. Am I overreacting? I know Peter would say just leave them alone. But when do I freak out? Do I intensify my fear by looking for trouble? I’m the kind of person that would go looking for a giant yellow jacket nest just to provide the answer: should I be scared… or not. It’s like when I was a child, horrified of the monsters under my bed… I was the kid that refused to put the covers over my face, because I was sure as hell going to know if something was going to jump on me… BEFORE it happened.

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