Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Yellow Jackets Persist

"Why don't you just nuke em with bug spray?" I am asked when I complain about the yellow jacket nest in the fence.

I ask this question of myself, as I am now afraid to walk past the irritable nest of pests. They're virulent, organized and cranky. Within the yellow jacket world is a system far worse than any mafia family. Their ability to organize and attack is uncanny, and they must possess within their horrible, creepy little heads a stellar, sophisticated communication system. I walk up the path next to the nest where I am marked, buzzed, and followed.

In the beginning weeks, I hung yellow jacket traps with raw meat. Three of them. Nothing. The traffic going in and out seemed to triple, so one day I dressed in chainmail and placed the electric zapper  over the entrance. I walked away knowing I'd made a dent in their operation and then...

I had been followed. A vigilant hit man had weedled its way into the folds of my clothing, had persisted past three layers and detected human flesh. I've since learned a yellow jacket can sting more than once. Unlike the bee who will die when she ejects her stinger and loses important innards, the yellow jacket lives.

The pain was instantaneous and lasted for more than a week. The swelling in my tender stomach was such that none of my pants fit and I started the first day of school with a loose dress with ties around the front that camouflaged my bulging stomach. Loose shirts the rest of the week. Each night I slumped at my desk dousing my stomach with rubbing alcohol.

"Why don't you just nuke em with bug spray?"

I stand on the deck above the nest. The nest is surrounded by the black raspberries my children and I have cherished for almost two decades. The first of the season, we watch them burst as small green mounds. We watch each day as the green gives way to light pink to mellow purple, to dark purple and finally the richness that brings the unmistakeable sweetness that ushers in a summer's worth of morning berry popping.

"I don't want the poison in our soil, in our food," I answer as to why I don't just nuke em.

Yet it almost seems cruel to fight them, to watch them sizzle when they hit the electric mosquito zapper. Which is worse? To just end it fast or keep fighting. It might be with each attempted slaughter (I've tried flushing nests with water, boiling water, pinesol and smoke), they evolve into meaner, more defensive insects. Prolong or just get it over with? Which is more humane?

But at the core, is my desire to keep poison out of the garden. Other insects thrive, birds are plenty. Guinea hens waddle about and no creature will die from poisoned soil or insects. I need to keep up the fight, but...sometimes, I seriously wonder if I can go to heaven with this desire to kill.