Battling wasps around the ranch
Grass out here is over cow belly high. Calves are eating a mini-maze through it. Barely see the tips of their ears when pouring salt into the tractor tire feeder. Summer running rampant. Plentiful birds are keeping the wasp/hornet population in check. Which is a good because in past years we had problems.
Do not attempt to eliminate wasps or yellow jackets in the middle of the day. Wasps, hornets, yellow jackets rest at dark, use in the evening, the product advertisement read. It had other warnings too, such as, do not tear or rip the paper nest of hornets nor use loud chainsaws or trimmers while removing tree or shrub limbs with wasps nests attached. We did not buy this product. Who reads these warnings?
A wasp nest in the cedar tree near the house dangled from a branch over the outdoor dining furniture. Worried stinging critters living in the beautiful gray paper lantern would attack during a bright summer day my husband climbed a stepladder and placed a small plastic garbage bag over the nest. I stood guard at the glass kitchen door bearing witness.
Taking a small but loud chainsaw causing a great deal of vibration my husband cut the branch the nest clung to. The limb crashed to the ground on top of the plastic garbage bag ripping bag and nest open. Angry stingers quickly emerged. But my husband was faster down off the ladder. Dropping the chainsaw he ran to the kitchen door. The swarm gathering behind.
“Go around!” I hollered through the locked door. “You can’t come in this way!” I had read somewhere if bees attack you can run 200 yards or more from their nest and they will stop pursuing you. Maybe it works with wasps and hornets too. “Go around back! I don’t want those in the house! Run! Run!” And he did.
The second nest was in the spruce tree by the rose garden. It didn’t bother me. I didn’t bother it, but my husband did not like it hanging there. With his experience he did not bother with a garbage bag or ladder. Instead he had his two sons and a nephew get their shotguns and join him with his under the tree. I heard my husband from my viewing area, again behind the locked kitchen door say, “Boys, concentrate your shot’s at the branch about a foot from the nest on my count of three.” The limb shattered on the count of three. The nest fell. And off to the back door the marksmen ran.
With the third nest all participants wiser from experience cut with soundless clippers the paper piñata from the blackberry bush well after dark. Father and two sons dressed in ski masks, goggles, coat sleeves and pant legs tucked into gloves and boots with duct tape seals were covering all possibilities. Moving the nest from the thorny blackberry bush it would surely rip open before it was dumped into the fifty-gallon container set up with a garden hose to eliminate the pests.
From a distance I bore witness. There was no running. Only one sting. Not a bad night. And not a single warning label read by any of them. Summer, enjoy it!
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.