Animal Encounters: What’s the Buzz?

Note: This is the second in a series of super-short stories about animals.

I was mowing the lawn one day when a bee flew by me. Yikes, I thought. On my next pass by the same spot in our yard, a few bees swept past me. “Creepy,” I said. The third time around, several chased me, so I abandoned my lawn mower and ran. “Holy bleep!” I yelled.

I went inside and said to my lovely wife Jen: “There are bees swarming me in the backyard!”

“Oh,” she said. “And are you planning on leaving the lawn mower running out there all day then?”

I went back in the yard to see where the bees were coming from: Our air conditioner’s condenser had two coolant tubes that went into our house. There was a circular hole cut out in our siding so that the tubes could enter, and the bees were going in and out of the house freely.

I managed to mow the lawn like this: I approached the condenser slowly, and as the bees got annoyed with me, I ran backwards as fast as I could with the mower. I had a nice little dance going with the bees, but I knew that wasn’t sustainable. (Also a little embarrassing, if any neighbors were watching.) I had to get rid of them, and I knew just the person to take care of it.

“Randy!” I yelled as I banged on my handy neighbor’s back door. I’m sure he was thinking, Now what with this guy?!?¬†after the raccoon incident, but he has the patience of Job, so he came over to help.

“First, those aren’t bees you got there; those are wasps,” Randy said.

“Right,” I said. “I knew that.” Later, I Googled “difference between bees and wasps.” Turns out bees are beneficial pollinators who rarely sting, and wasps are aggressive, mostly non-pollinators who like to sting.

Randy explained that as long as you stay out of the path of where the wasps (or yellow jackets) are going for their food source, they won’t harm you. He showed me: we noticed that they would exit the hole and turn to the left, so he eased his way next to the hole on the other side to peek in it.

“I see hundreds and hundreds of wasps in there. And I don’t know why the builder didn’t seal up this hole in the first place.”

I was starting to wonder that myself. How many other holes in the house were there for animals (raccoons, wasps, etc.) to enter? Why don’t I just leave the doors wide open to make it easier for them to stroll in?!?

Randy’s plan was, we wait until dark, when the wasps are at their least active and most of them have returned to the nest. Then we stand next to the nest and spray the crap out of them with wasp killer. (And by “we,” I mean “Randy,” while I stand a safe distance away, holding the flashlight.) Then, in the morning, I seal up the hole with foaming sealer.

That night, after dark, we went out there, and that’s exactly what we (“he”) did. And the next morning, I sealed it up with the foamy stuff.

Here’s the thing I didn’t count on: not all of the wasps died immediately, and they had to find another exit spot to get away from the spray. So over the next several months (!), we had wasps come out from behind the basement drywall and spend their last hours and days in our house. Fortunately, they had no food source, so the wasps would basically die on the concrete floor. I swept them up once a week and kept checking the sealed hole, and we’ve been wasp-free ever since.

A few years later, we had to get a new condenser, and we decided to move it to a different part of the yard. I made sure the installers sealed the new tube hole well. They thought it a little strange, but I take no chances.