Thursday, July 26, 2007


A post over at Baldilocks’s place about dispatching a nest of hornets reminded me of a truly horrifying experience.

Let me preface the tale by stating that while I am no fan of stinging insects, I’m not terrified of the beasties either. I’ve been fortunate in that my last painful encounter was so long ago, I barely remember it: a bumblebee sting when I was not much more than a toddler.

I’m not about to go out and have a hive full of honeybees form a beard on my face, but most of these guys don’t bother me all that much. Yellowjackets are a major annoyance here, especially in the fall, and they can inflict painful stings, but they don’t give me the Screaming Meemies. I’ll make an exception for cicada-killer wasps: they’re supposedly not all that aggressive (unlike yellowjackets), but they’re so fucking huge, just seeing one makes me shake like a dog shitting a peach pit.

Back in 1979-81, the Missus and I were living in northwestern New Jersey. Most people think of New Jersey and visualize tank farms and refineries à la New Jersey Turnpike, but Hackettstown was out in the country. Downright bucolic, it was, with a dinky little Main Street. Our neighborhood lay directly across from the M&M Mars plant, the place where the world’s supply of M&M’s is made, and humid mornings were enhanced by the faint pong of chocolate in the air.

Our house was pleasant enough. With all-electric heat (big mistake) and a couple of window units by way of air conditioning, it wasn’t in any way a palace, but it was comfortable enough...and most summer evenings were cool enough for us to use the Whole-House Fan to keep the air circulating and the temperature manageable.

Yes: this house had a Whole-House Fan, a honkin’ big box fan that sat at one end of the attic and pulled air through the house, exhausting it through a vent on the south side.

It must have been a day in late spring when I went into my closet only to find a woozy, half-dead wasp on the floor. A big one, too. I quickly made an end to him and thought nothing more of it.

But over the next couple of days, several of the wasp’s brethren started showing up in various places in the house. What the hell was going on?

The mystery was solved in short order. For some unrelated reason, I had to go up to the attic...and that’s when I discovered the source of the Waspy Invaders. They had built an enormous nest...right in the housing of the Whole House Fan. Holy Shit!

Upon seeing the nest a mere five feet away, my bowels turned to water. I quickly climbed down and ran for the nearest call the exterminator. No fucking way was I going to tackle that massive nest - a full three feet in diameter, like some horror out of a Stephen King novel - by myself. Uh-uh.

The exterminator arrived and quickly demolished the nest (after poisoning the little bastards, of course). It resembled an elephant’s elephant suffering from a serious case of spongiform encephalopathy. Yeef.

I’m glad, in retrospect, that none of us got stung. Especially Elder Daughter (then, Only Daughter). Could have been nasty, that.

And at least it wasn’t a nest fulla cicada-killers. Seeing that might’ve stopped my heart right on the spot.

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