Monday, October 14, 2013

One flew over the hornet's nest

Cosmos No sign of the hummingbirds since I returned. Did they fly south already?
Hornet's nest hidden behind our basketball backboard a few years ago. Dontae and his brother pissed them off by playing basketball. We have also gotten rid of the wild grapes that were attacking our house
Recently on the news they featured a horrific story about Giant Chinese Hornets. These things have always existed but this year, they have a bumper crop of the thumb sized hornets who live in enormous nests five times of the basketball nest we had above. So far, 42 people have died. No they didn't die of anaphylactic shock but from the enormous amount of toxins these creatures inject. As little as five stings can kill a human. A few more can kill cattle. Survivors have bullet sized holes on their bodies as the venom is flesh dissolving.

Everyone there is hoping for a killing frost soon. In the meantime, well protected crews are burning the known nests with blow torches.

I am not a fan of stinging creatures. Each year features different ones. Although we don't have hornets, paper wasps and the worst, yellow jackets this year, we have a sizeable nest of small, mean wasps in my rock garden, the very same variety that I had stupidly locked our bikes to a pole containing a nest of them a few months ago. These nasty things love sugar and have been harassing my hummingbirds. On one of my feeders, I have wasp guards but they are smaller than the yellow jackets the guards were built for and can get through the holes. I have found out the hard way that there is little correlation between the size of the creature and how awful the venom is. A few years ago, I was stung by an enormous carpenter bee, which probably weighs just as much as a Chinese hornet. However, it didn't hurt nearly as much as a yellow jacket. Fortunately carpenter bees work alone. Thousands of individuals don't form a stinging swarm after you.

On the day Julie was in labor, one of the small evil wasps stung me. I immediately put on a paste of baking soda meant to denature the venom but the stuff was injected well below the surface. By the time I got to the hospital (to see the baby)my wrist felt like it was broken. A small pit formed on my arm where the toxin dissolved my flesh. A very small pit especially compared to the poor Chinese victims.

One of my favorite hornet stories was in Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead about his WW2 service in the Pacific. His company was a recon mission to check out the Japanese that had probably infiltrated behind their lines. However his men stumbled upon a hornet's nest (not clear if they were the massive Chinese variety) which scattered the men screaming in all directions. Not good if stealth is your prime objective. The commander radioed to ask what was going on.
We ran into a hornet's nest sir.
Literally or figuratively?

Naomi is especially phobic about stinging creatures. Somehow wasps have been getting into her condo and usually end up on her window trying to escape. On one of the days she called me 4 times insisting that we drive from wherever we were to kill these things IMMEDIATELY!!! I told her just to swat it with a magazine. What happens if I miss? It will come after me looking for revenge? Will Windex kill it? Only if you get close enough to drown it, you are better off swatting it. Steve did make a special trip there last week for wasp killing.

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