August 23, 2011 in City

Zap ’em and trap ’em: It’s yellow jacket war

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Latest in a seemingly never-ending series on nature’s attempt to murder me.

As I write these words I am trying to ignore a red, itchy welt on my left wrist.

Itchy tells only part of the story. There is burning, too, as if some fiend were intermittently jabbing the center of the welt with the business end of a flame-heated needle.

This has been driving me crazy since the other night, when I was attacked while sitting on my deck by the al-Qaida of the insect world …

The yellow jacket.

Third time I’ve been nailed this summer.

A couple of weeks ago one of the tiny terrorists chomped me twice just above my right collarbone. The area swelled into a conjoined scarlet mass that looked either like an unborn twin or a hickey from Jeffrey Dahmer.

If this were a movie I’d call it “Full Yellow Jacket.”

That’s right. It’s war.

Am I the only one to notice that something quite evil is going on?

This appears to be the worst summer ever for yellow jacket nastiness.

In an effort to find out I dialed Washington State University’s Spokane County Extension office. Unfortunately, my call wasn’t very productive.

The extension folks don’t seem to take me seriously anymore.

My lack of credibility may come from too many previous calls about invading box elder bugs, home-wrecking woodpeckers and the ant army that was conducting field exercises in my den.

I’m pretty sure something like the following dialogue now goes on whenever my phone number pops up on the extension office caller ID.

EXTENSION AGENT 1 – “Oh, no. It’s that Clark bozo again.”

EXTENSION AGENT 2 – “Gawd. Whaddaya think’s bugging him this week?”

EXTENSION AGENT 1 – “Maybe he’s got crabs.”

EXTENSION AGENT 2 – “Wouldn’t be surprised. Well, who’s gonna take the call?”

EXTENSION AGENT 1 – “Rock, paper, scissors?”

EXTENSION AGENT 2 – “Naw. Let’s just give him to the new guy.”

Maybe I’m imagining things. But Doug Malott, who finally answered the phone, said he’d only been a Master Gardener since last year.

Most of what he told me I already knew: that yellow jackets are meaner when it’s hot and dry, that they tend to build their homes in the ground and, hey, why don’t I go check my yard for nests.

It’s not as if I’ve been complacent.

Some weeks ago I hung up one of those hot green yellow jacket traps that are made by Rescue. The thing worked for awhile, but lately the yellow jackets seem to be avoiding it.

“I’m afraid I trapped the dumb ones,” I told Malott. “Now the smart ones are out to get even.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.

Master Gardener, my fanny.

Good news, Spokane. Did you know that Rescue yellow jacket traps are made right here?

Sure enough. They are the creation of Rod Schneidmiller, who in 1982 set about trying to come up with a better flytrap.

Schneidmiller’s efforts, however, led him to something far better: yellow jacket death tubes.

We should build a statue in his honor.

According to Rescue spokeswoman Stephanie Cates, the corporation is also trying to eradicate stink bugs, which are not only common to the Spokane City Council, but a serious nuisance all over the Eastern United States.

Cates, the company’s director of marketing and communications, gave me a sympathetic ear as I unloaded my yellow jacket travails.

She made me realize that my Rescue trap probably needed a fresh squirt of the attractant that lures yellow jackets to their doom.

(The stuff I bought apparently works only a couple of weeks, which means I’m way overdue.)

“Our R&D people are actually seeking active yellow jacket nests to collect the insects for testing,” Cates added.

Anyone who finds one in Spokane area can contact her office at (509) 926-6766.

The Rescue products are just Phase One in my yellow jacket jihad.

Phase Two is my trusty battery-powered bug zapper.

While patrolling my kitchen Monday I electrocuted five yellow jackets thanks to this wonderfully diabolical device.

( I actually own two of them, regular and glow-in-the-dark.)

If you don’t have a bug zapper you’re not doing your part to help the war effort. Electro-swatters are cheap and sold in most sporting goods outlets, hardware stores and S&M supply shops.

The bug zapper resembles a mini tennis racquet only with horizontal metal wires instead of strings.

Install two AA batteries and it’s time to rock. Pushing the two trigger buttons simultaneously will electrify the wires enough to deliver a lethal shock to most creepy crawlies.

This is so much more satisfying than spraying poison out of a can.

Plus the electro-swatters are fun for fraternity hazing ceremonies.

But getting back to bugs. I always put on a robe and pretend to give the yellow jackets a fair trial before pronouncing them guilty and sentencing them to die.

Haw! Just like Texas.

These yellow jackets are plenty tough customers, though.

One of them actually crawled back to life after being sparked.

I took pity on the hapless creature for a moment.

And then juiced it again.

“No governor’s pardon for you, pal!”

Ah. I love the smell of smoldering yellow jackets in the morning.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


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