Back before what year it was really mattered, I stepped on a yellow jacket nest. (I know I wrote about this last summer, but there’s a point being made here.) So traumatic was the ensuing horror scene that I literally did not wear shorts (other than those obligatory for gym class) for at least a decade. I’m still reluctant to do so. The south side of our house is the best real estate in town. For bugs. After last year’s unfortunate yellow jacket massacre, I went out and patched every hole I could find and reach. I missed one. (Actually, it is where previous owners didn’t bother to reattach a porch light after installing a new porch. The gap was too big to use filler and I was trying to figure out how to do the repair when it got cold out last fall.) So the jackets are back. Ironically, not two feet from where they settled last year.
I really don’t want to kill the little buggers. I have respect for all of life, and if they didn’t regularly get into the house I’d leave them be. They’re only doing what they evolved to do. At times it seems like all of life is an experiment presided over by some alien race, curious about what would happen if a few select species were given an intellectual boost. You see, these yellow jackets are smart. They’re problem solvers. When I realized what they were doing—it was already too late—I started going outside at 3 a.m. (I’m awake anyway) and duct-taping the gaps shut. I did this three days in a row before I realized what would happen if the police drove by. A guy in a hoodie in the dark, standing next to a window on someone’s back porch with a roll of duct tape in his hand? How do you explain your way out of that one?
Nature couldn’t have given these yellow jackets a real analog for duct tape wrapping the entry to their home, but each day they came back and buzzed around it contemplatively. I figured the stickiness of the tape (I could barely get it off my fingers) would dissuade them. They began digging under it. Not only that, they began building an exterior entrance tunnel. Soon they had an even better fortified nest with an easily guarded means of ingress. Their brains may be small, but working together they can accomplish truly remarkable things. More so, in many ways, than this human who watches them with fear and reverence.