Hotter than a master bedroom full of yellow jackets

Last week was our week of “summer,” and in a very bad way. It hit 97°F at my house on Friday, which is a record. Saturday was almost as bad at 95°F. My friends in Texas are probably wondering what the big deal is. Here’s the big deal: we don’t have air conditioning. Fifty weeks of the year, we don’t need it, but last week, sitting around the house this weekend was oh, so unpleasant. When weren’t bitchy, we were lethargic.

By 3pm Friday, I couldn’t take it anymore and suggested we go to an air-conditioned mall, any air-conditioned mall, where we could find something to amuse the kids. Later, we’d find an air-conditioned restaurant. Then, we’d find an air-conditioned bookstore. At some point, we’d run out of money or things to do in air-conditioned environments and would go home. By then, the house should have cooled off.

All your home are belong to
us, Blog Boy!

All worked to plan. When we got home, I put box fans in the bedroom windows to pull in the (now) cooler outside air. In my bedroom, I saw a bee/wasp/hornet — something with a menacing stinger — on the screen. It, too, looked lethargic, so I took my time getting downstairs to find the fly swatter. I killed it. Then I saw another one on the same screen and killed it, too. I walked into the bathroom to give the carcasses a burial at sea when I noticed a dozen dead ones in the tub underneath the bathroom window and a third one buzzing on that screen. Yipe!

My wife called around for exterminators. Each time she got an answering machine, she went onto the next number, eventually hoping to talk with an actual human being late on a Friday evening. Meanwhile, I did my husbandly duty of killing critters. The body count for the evening was 37 — 23 already dead, 14 swatted. It helped that the yellowjackets were also lethargic and kept mostly to the nice, flat windows where I could bam them.

The Y-Motel: Yellowjackets
check in, but they
don’t check out

Janet had reached someone’s answering service and was optimistic that they’d call back. I was pessimistic, and went to Home Depot to see what kinds of options were available.

Home Depot had three different projectile sprays. Based on my quick analysis of the label, the primary differentiator of these products is the range of the projection. One claimed 18 feet, one 20 feet, and the other 22 feet. The cans had similar chemicals in them, but the 20 foot projection can touted its viscous solution would (insert frantic handwaving here). I chose this and the 22′ can.

I found a pheromone-based trap, thinking it would be a non-toxic way of draw the remaining yellowjackets out of my bedroom. The idea is simple: you soak a cotton ball with the attractant. The yellowjackets find their up into the trap, but once in, don’t think to go down to get out. Eventually they die of dehydration.

Thar be dragons on your left,
we’re two miles from the
Krispy Kreme.

When I got home, my wife had discovered that finding an exterminator on a Friday evening would be almost as difficult as getting one to actually come to our house. We live about 15 miles east of Seattle in what the county refers to as “managed growth corridor,” the polite term for “cookie-cutter housing.” Despite the number of people out this direction, getting any kind of home repair or maintenance people to come out here requires extreme sucking up. This was no different. Someone eventually called my wife and told her he wasn’t going to send someone out until the next day.

I sprayed the can at the insects’ entry point. The toxin arced out, but was clearly not jetting out its advertised 22 feet. It was more like 14 feet. I pulled the ladder out, stood atop it, and tried again, but the propellant was almost spent. I ended up soaking my kitchen window. I pulled out the other can, and was able to get just enough on the corner to piss off the bugs into a frenzied swarm. G-r-r-r-e-a-a-t-t!

We slept in the downstairs living room, fans blasting in the window.

Saturday morning, the dispatcher assured us that his technician would be out at 2pm. I took advantage of the lethargy-inducing weather to balance the last quarter of my checkbook statements. At 3pm, we called, and were told the technician wasn’t going to come until 4pm. 4pm had morphed into 6pm as I realized I was speaking with a cousin of Debbie’s cable company. At 7:30pm, the technician called. She was lost. I gave her directions and she found our house in 10 minutes.

The technician was about 19 years old and looked like she had driven all of Puget Sound today. I described the problem again, and showed her where the bugs were getting in. Next, I took her up to the master bedroom where there were five critters buzzing around the windows. Her comment: “Okay, I understand the problem.”

She borrowed my ladder and climbed up into the attic to look for a hive. While she did that, I moved the pheromone trap outside. It hadn’t worked well indoors, and I wasn’t comfortable with pheromones lingering indoors.

When I got back, she said she was unsure where she could walk around (um, the rafters), but didn’t see anything buzzing around. This meant they were in the wall, which, believe it or not, is cheaper to treat.

She pulled a metallic box out of the back of her truck. It looked like an artifact from a 1960s science fiction movie, but I couldn’t think of which movie. The box’s purpose is to gently aerate the pesticide from a wand.

To access the corner, she needed access to the roof. She tried my ladder to get onto the roof. The roofline came to her chest, and for reasons only God knows, she thought she could pull herself up by holding onto a shingle. I stopped her, telling her she was nuts, and suggested she pull the extension ladder from her truck. She demurred, but I ignored her, and made a beeline for the truck.

I don’t know if she was just trying to save time by not getting the ladder off the truck, or if she just didn’t know how to set up a ladder safely. Both theories seemed eminently plausible.

She walked gingerly on the roof to the corner where the yellowjackets were busy. At this point, my neighbors poked their heads out to watch. We didn’t say it out loud, but we were all surprised she hadn’t donned any protective clothing. At minimum, I’d have expected her to wear gloves and a respirator.

She sprayed her stuff around the corner for about ten minutes. The yellowjackets were obviously displeased and their swarming became more agitated. Once the fogging stuff was done, she sprayed a foamy sealant to prevent them from going back in the hole once the poison subsides.

I talked with her some more, and found out she had been at the job for several months. After she was done with us, she had two more appointments, one in Bellevue (6 miles west) and one in Tacoma, about 45 miles southwest, before she could go home (Seattle). The guys at the office apparently have a pool going on how long she’d go before getting stung. And I thought my first job out of high school sucked.


Sunday evening – I vacuumed out carcasses of all the yellowjackets that died in the sills. This evening, there were five new ones buzzing in the window, far less than the night before, but enough that we’re going to spend another night on the livingroom floor. The scary part is I’ve disposed of 103 dead yellowjackets this weekend, including the 38 I’ve killed. The pheromone trap is hanging outside on a tree near my garage and has netted about 10 bugs.

Monday morning – One yellowjacket was crawling around in the window. We may see more by the afternoon when their activity peaks. (I hope not — I want to sleep in a real bed tonight.)

11 thoughts on “Hotter than a master bedroom full of yellow jackets”

  1. She was going to grab onto a shingle and pull herself up? Geebus.

    I understand your not wanting to see the poor girl fall to her death. BUT, wouldn’t it have been cool if you had one of those giant air mattresses that firemen use? You could have let her attempt it while you and your family watched from below.

    “Oops! There she goes! See, kids, that’s what can happen when you try to be Spider-man.”

  2. Wasps get attracted to light in rooms in the early morning .I once left a light on in my kitchen and there where about twenty wasps on the ceiling about 5am. It’s not a good idea to crush them because they release a chemical pheromone which calls for reinforcements.They are harmless enough but can be a nuisance sometimes.Wasps are actually an important part of the ecosystem.They eat bugs that destroy crops so they could actually be considered beneficial.

  3. Hi,
    I have the same problem. On Wed this week — I saw about 100 yellow jackets. I was told to shut the door and the would die of dehydration. But next day — they were still alive. I got an exterminator yesterday. Today I still see about 10-20 alive — not as many as before.

    How many days after treatment did you see the critters?

    They are making me nervous — esp after being bit about 8-10 times.

    Thanks.

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