August 25, 2013 in City

Doug Clark: Wasp Wars has backyard buzzing

By The Spokesman-Review
 

1. “Thwapp!”

2. “Look Out!”

3. “It’s in your hair!”

4. “Oh no! You let one into the house!”

5. “GET IT OFF ME! GET IT OFF MEEE!!”

Sorry. I was just going over some memories from the summer of 2013, also known as …

Wasp Wars.

By my calculations, I’ve spent half my daylight hours either swatting at something that was trying to bite me or running for cover while screaming like a little girl.

And I’m not the only one.

Bug experts say this is one of the region’s worst summers for yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets and paper wasps, although I’ll be damned if I would know one killer from the other.

When I say bug expert, I don’t mean someone with a college degree in creepy-crawlies. The experts I respect are regular folks like my friend Ron LaVigne, who lives year round at Black Lake, which is home to the usual beasties such as mosquitoes and dragonflies.

But this year, LaVigne said, is the worst he’s ever seen for wasps.

“They are just mean little devils.”

No argument there.

LaVigne said he was clearing some brush the other day with his friend Karl Zamora when they encountered a bald-faced hornet hive that, by the sound of it, was only slightly smaller than one of Jupiter’s moons.

Suddenly the air was abuzz with the aforementioned mean devils.

The two men decided to regroup and formulate a strategy. The next time they returned, they were each toting a spray can of bug poison.

“We were gonna give them a double whammy,” LaVigne said.

Hoping to get a clear shot, LaVigne said he used an ax to chop off a couple of branches that were in the way.

Bad idea. The vibrations angered a hornet, which made a beeline straight for …

Zamora’s upper lip.

“Those bees can tell when you’re after them,” LaVigne said.

Zamora retreated to nurse his throbbing wound. LaVigne considered the now-swarming hive and began to rethink the entire operation.

“I picked up my ax and got out of there,” he said.

Soon a new and much better scheme was hatched.

A call was made to a professional buzz-killer. He arrived with a bee suit and an insecticide that LaVigne figured was so strong “you probably can’t sell it over the counter.”

Several sprays later, the exterminator was leaving victorious with the dead hive ensconced in a black plastic garbage bag.

All in all, I guess I should count myself lucky. Despite being attacked on a regular basis, I have yet to suffer a single sting.

I don’t like to brag, but over the years I’ve developed a keen sense of cowardice that keeps me in a constant state of surrender.

Unfortunately, my lovely wife, Sherry, is way too brave for her own good. She will walk calmly among the swirling yellow jackets, showing no trace of fear. Which probably accounts for her being the only member of the Clark household to be stung.

That happened earlier in the summer. A yellow jacket nailed her on her arm while she was doing some backyard gardening.

Since that happened, we have fought back by hanging up four of those popular yellow-jacket traps and investing in an electronic bug-swatter.

Not the regular-size swatter, either.

This thing is called the “Stinger.” It’s about the size of a tennis racquet. It uses C batteries and is supposed to turn the average bug into Col. Cinders when you zap it.

Except that there is nothing average about this year’s wasp crop.

These things are a whole lot meaner and tougher than anything I’ve ever seen.

The other day, for example, I zapped a hornet dead-on with my Stinger. It made a big spark followed by a loud “POP!”

And I was so proud. That is, I was so proud until the hornet shook off the effects of being electrocuted. It came back from the dead and went after me EVEN MADDER THAN BEFORE!

Oh, no. Killer zombees.

This is even worse than I imagined.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 ordougc@spokesman.com.


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