Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Infestation: Part 2

As promised, I have returned once more to continue my tales of infestation in the Heartland. Tonight’s story is perhaps told in a simple narrative style as I really can’t think of any great way to introduce or build up to it.

Long ago, or sometime last autumn, I returned home from work in my usual manner. After a long day in the office and what was likely an uneventful but mind-numbing commute, I pulled my car into my garage. As is my custom, before closing the garage door and entering my house, I took a little stroll back out to my communal mailbox to check the day’s correspondence.

As I sauntered back to the house pondering the magic of the autumn skies, I thought about important things, such as what to have for dinner or if 8:30 was too early to go to bed. Normally, I do not pay much attention to the outside of my house aside from checking to see if my chairs are still in place and if some door-to-door annoyance has left a flyer attached to my door.

On this particular day, I did not note any of the usual disturbances. As I approached the entrance to the garage, a slight incongruence in the corner of my eye caught my attention. The strange and new anomaly was a small brown object that was the color of a paper grocery bag and was attached to the top of the outer frame of my garage door.

It should have been obvious to me immediately what this strange brown ball was, but I had to take a closer look. After taking two steps closer to the object, I quickly realized that it was not just a clump of dirt or some cute little bird’s nest; it was a nest of wasps.

I firmly believe that a fear or distrust of insects with stingers that are prone to angry attacks cannot be irrational. My reaction to my realization that I was sharing a living space with such creatures can therefore not be called overdramatic. I threw myself against the farthest wall of my garage from the nest and carefully crept my way to the garage door button to seal out these new houseguests.

(Please note: the walls of my garage are not teal, but now that I’ve used it, I realize that it might not be a bad idea.)

Once safely in the house, I sat down to consider my course of action. As I hadn’t seen any actual wasps on the nest, I thought that perhaps it was abandoned. It was still quite small, and I figured at most it could only contain one or two wasps so far. I vowed that I would simply knock it down with my snow shovel before leaving for work in the morning.

When the next morning came, I slowly approached the nest. On this visit, I was surprised to see three wasps crawling in and around the nest. I quickly abandoned my snow shovel attack as I felt it would be a poor defense against the insects should they target me for the destruction of their new home.

I went to work and promptly forgot about the wasps. If you have learned anything about me from my smoke detector story, you can possibly predict how the next couple of weeks went. I attempted to use avoidance and ignorance to solve my problem.

The event that pulled me out of my non-confrontational shame spiral was actually pretty simple. I came home from work one day to see a small child riding a tricycle down my street with its mother. She waved to me, and in a burst of uncharacteristic friendliness, I waved back. As I turned to walk back into my garage, I happened to notice that my wasp nest was getting bigger.

Faced with the possibility of a growing wasp problem and the potential threat to the children of my neighborhood, I decided that something needed to be done. I went inside to investigate my options. Obviously, the nest was not enormous, so calling an exterminator seemed to be unnecessary. Thankfully, I did vaguely recall that my father had dealt with wasp nests at some point in the past, so I called him to confer. He confirmed my memory and informed me that I could purchase wasp poison spray at any local hardware or home improvement store.

A few days later, I gathered my courage and put on my best “I look like I belong here in this do-it-yourself home improvement behemoth store” outfit. I drove the half mile from my house, parked my car, took a deep breath and went in. (To clarify, these giant house supply stores overwhelm me; they always make me feel lost and stupid.)

After half an hour of wandering and trying to look like I knew EXACTLY what I was doing, I stumbled upon the pesticide section. I performed a brief price comparison and bought the one that looked the meanest.

Once I arrived at home with my wasp spray, I sat down to read the directions. They were surprisingly long and quite specific. The first thing that surprised me was that they recommended that the extermination procedure be done either just after sunset or just before sunrise as this is when the wasps would be home and at their least active.

Other than the suggestion to stand at least 10 feet away and spray CONTINUALLY until the entire bottle was empty, the directions also indicated that it would be wise to dress carefully. In other words, cover up completely, because if the wasps wake up, they are going to swarm you. Apparently, they tend to aim for the head of their assailant.

All of this information made me nervous and a little frightened. Rather than take on the operation that night, I decided to consult my coworkers the next day to see if anyone had any other advice or insight. It turns out that I was wise to do this because apparently destroying a wasp nest is serious business and a lot of people have had to do it.

Every warning on the spray bottle was confirmed, and the consensus of my panel was that evening or dusk was the best time to attack. That night, I returned home and waited for sunset. I went online to check the official time of sun down, and learned that it was to be 8:30 p.m.

At 8:15, I went to my bedroom and prepared for battle. Even though it was fall, the outside temperature in the evening had yet to drop to cooler temperatures, so most people were still wearing light clothing. I would not be able to do so. I put on long jeans, a t-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, thick socks and boots. I pulled out a scarf and hat, but ultimately decided to wear my big hooded winter coat instead. I did keep my mittens as I sadly do not own any work gloves or choppers.

Last but not least, the final yet most important piece of my armor: my safety goggles. In college chemistry, I was required to purchase a pair of super-sexy safety goggles, and they have come in handy quite a bit in the past ten years.

This time, I did remember to take a picture.

Fortified in full battle regalia, I ventured forth into the now dark evening. I measured out approximately 10 feet, read the instructions one more time, and commenced the spraying.

I have to say, after all the build-up, I was expecting a little more drama from the wasps. In the end, all that happened was that the nest was fully soaked with spray and there were three dead wasps on the ground beneath. No wasps even flew out of the nest. My protective clothing was never put to any real test.

According to the instructions on the spray, I was not to attempt any further contact with the wasps that night, but in the morning, I could knock the nest down and smash it. This was in case any of the wasps had been away from home during the attack. If they came back during the night, the poison would still be viable and would finish them all off.

In the morning light, I approached the dormant nest with my snow shovel and knocked it down. Using the flat side of the shovel, I smashed the nest to smithereens and swept all the mashed up debris into the grass.

In retrospect, I believe that this episode is one of my greatest success stories in life. Especially when you ignore the fact that it took me almost a month after discovering the problem until I actually solved it. But overall, the net result is that I was 100% effective at eliminating my wasp infestation, and I did it all through my own physical force (with the help of a store-purchased poison spray and some safety goggles).

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