Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tough Little Buggers

I have new respect for an insect I had previously assumed was simply an intolerable evil in the world of camping, the bane of afternoon picnicking. An insect which set me running to the house in absolute agony just several years ago while I was mowing the yard. Three of them stung me on the forearm simultaneously and I felt like I had run into an electric fence. The pain shot across my shoulder down to my finger tips. 

 Our golden retriever, Taz, was stung on the paw last month by one and as a result, will not come out of the camper if he sees or hears one of the flying insects. No coaxing or coercion works, he won’t budge. Taz is terrified by them. He is now afraid of even common house flies. 

 This is an insect so tough it refuses to die even while stuck to an old fashioned fly-paper strip. One that communicates to its fellow nourishment seekers; “Don’t land here, it’s a trap!” Then spends hours trying to help its hapless compadres that put a single leg astray to become ensnared by the insidious adhesive of the insidious fly ribbons. More than just a general nuisance or pest, but an uninvited winged-warrior, with a sting so painful bee stings seem mild in comparison. A winged adversary to be exterminated at every opportunity; the wasp known as the yellow-jacket. 

Not the end of a yellowjacket to worry about...
By Opo Terser - Face of a Southern Yellowjacket Queen (Vespula squamosa),
Courtesy of Wikipedia
Our beautiful RV camp site at the marvelous U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Campground at Bolding Mill on Lake Sydney Lanier was perfect in every way but one; we couldn’t sit outside and drink anything – alcoholic beverages are prohibited – without attracting the little yellow and black banded yellow-jackets. In the past we simply lit several citronella candles around the campsite and the wasps and the flies stayed outside our little secure no-fly-zone, but not this time. I had seven of the heavily scented candles going at once without any deterring effect what-so-ever on the little wasps. They even got inside our portable screen room, which is the worst thing that can happen when Taz is with us. A terror stricken dog trying to get away from a yellow-jacket in an enclosed space is not man’s best friend. 

I thought I found the solution when I bought a box of ten Fly Ribbons made by Raid. The ribbons have no insecticide or aroma, but the incredible adhesive on the spiraling tape requires using rubber gloves when hanging them. Remember seeing the spirally hanging strips at Grandpa’s farm? I do, and I was thrilled to find the fly-paper – that’s what they used to call them – in a local hardware store in Bishop, Georgia, several years ago. Recent attempts to buy more have been unsuccessful. Even Walmart no longer carries them. Even though the five remaining tapes in my box were priceless, I really don’t like to use them unless there is no alternative. I believe the sticky mousetraps are basically inhumane, and the fly-strips are not much higher in the realm of painless pest repulsion or protection, but this was one of those times they were sorely needed. 

Before I go on, let me tell you I believe in karma. So, using the reverse logic that confuses many, I feel the little buggers deserve to die on a fly-strip. They really deserve it! Karma, remember? I didn’t do anything to be traumatized by the yellow-jackets, neither did my dog. The yellow-jackets inflicted incredible pain and suffering to us without any consideration for our place in the universe. So, if they want to hang around on a fly-strip, struggling for their freedom while I watch in glee, so be it. 

After carefully pulling one of the sticky tapes out of its small cylindrical cardboard holder, I eyed the campsite for a logical place to hang it. No problem, the yellow-jackets were buzzing through the chemical armor of the citronella candles with impunity so anywhere should work just fine. But it didn’t. I hung one on the edge of our awning, but they made a wide path around it and continued dominating our airspace. They didn’t go anywhere near my old-fashioned fly trap. 

I decided to enforce our no-fly-zone with deception since blatant physical barriers proved ineffective. I soaked a napkin with a splash of forbidden red wine and stuck it to the tape. Bingo! Within minutes I had five of them stuck to the tape. I was thrilled I might have found a solution to our problem, but after watching them for twenty minutes, I realized just how tough these guys are. Lo and behold, the tough little insects began to work themselves free, even assisting one another in their struggle. In the several hours I monitored the fly strip, eleven yellow jackets landed and became stuck to the strip, but after two hours, there were none still on the strip! Not one! They had all worked themselves free. Exhausted, most fell to the ground below the strip. I actually saw one fly off, but I have no idea how. I watched two of the insects work to free one of their stuck compatriots while becoming entangled on the strip themselves. The three eventually fell free from the trap as the others had. The numerous house flies and black flies simply succumbed to the adhesive, but not the tenacious yellow-jackets! 

I quickly put the ones on the ground out of their misery, and out of circulation, but I must admit I’m impressed. So, you ask, did the strip work? No, not really, not without the liquid inducement, but what we’ve settled on works just fine for our purpose. We picked up a pack of Repel insect sticks and light two or three at a time to keep the little Georgia Tech mascots at bay. I will burn a pack of the sticks at a time if I have to, anything to keep the tough little buggers out of the front yard of our little lake house on wheels. 

Peace and tranquility again reign in our little part of the shire. Even Taz lays quietly, but warily, at my feet. We’ve even tested the new chemical candles with the most attractive bait we’ve yet found to the yellow-jackets: Cabernet Sauvignon. Unofficially, of course, and only in the name of scientific research. We wouldn’t want to be considered pests by the Camp Hosts, they have enough pests as it is. 


Next: Another First - Morganton Point Campground, Blue Ridge, Georgia, at:

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