Way Too Much Detail about a Terrifying Yellow Jacket Experience
It’s a little early in the season for horror (I’d been saving the scary stories for the end of October), but damn if horror doesn’t sometimes jump out and grab you when you least expect it. Guess that’s sort of the point, really.
It probably doesn’t help that the new house is, I’m increasingly convinced, haunted. People really gotta put that shit in the lease.
Horror, of the chitinous, insectile kind.
We have a newly-carpeted porch that is just lovely.
Well, all right, it’s three different shades of shit-brown in a fuzzy houndstooth pattern, so less with the “lovely” and more with the “Ken’s 1972 Swingin’ Bachelor Pad Playset by Mattel,” but it’s carpeted! And after two months of lowered expectations that’s really all we were interested in.
But the windows were open during the carpeting process (glue fumes) and I guess the screens aren’t great, because when I went in to examine the finished product there were flies all over the place. Gross, but no big deal — I grabbed our flyswatter and went to.
Where things took a turn for the worse is when I found the yellow jacket.
I don’t know if it was sated from devouring flies, or if the cold had put it in a kind of torpor, or what, but it was crawling slowly along a wooden window sill instead of buzzing around with that terrifying “mindless drone of stinging horror” sound they do so well. So I swatted it.
And then, immediately, the design flaws in our only flyswatter became obvious.
It is flimsy. Perhaps this is for a more effective swish, and perhaps it is just a cost-saving measure — we may never know. But the light, flexible plastic suffices for flies, who are small and squishy.
Yellow jackets are not. They are well-armored and resilient. Slapping them does nothing. You have to either crush with overwhelming weight (which the swatter lacks) or pierce with a single, sharpened point (ditto).
All a flyswatter can do — as I discovered — is come down with a resounding smacking sound, whereupon you have an angry yellow jacket pinned under a mesh of plastic. Keep the pressure on the plastic and it can’t get out to sting you, but no amount of bending or pressing is going to turn that flimsy flyswatter into something that will break its armored carapace.
And it was at that rather belated point I noticed that the holes in the flyswatter mesh were kind of large.
Large enough, as it happens, for a yellow jacket to begin crawling out, millimeter by tiny, wriggling millimeter.
I stared in a kind of helpless fascination as it got the first leg free, stick-like and waving angrily. (The stinger, it should go without saying, was plunging violently this whole time. Did you know, if you have one trapped for close inspection, that you can actually see the venomous needle sliding in and out of its sheath? Stabbing the air, hoping to find anything foolish enough to venture near. It’s mesmerizing.)
By the time the second leg came free I was looking around desperately for something to kill it with. The carpet guy was gone, and I was in the jeans I’d thrown on to answer the door — empty pockets, no belt knife; not even a belt buckle. Not so much as a U.S. penny, which (as the picture clearly shows) could be slipped through the mesh to crush a wasp edge-on.
I was eventually reduced to stabbing with a stray broom straw, trying desperately to pierce the abdomen without exerting too much force and breaking my only weapon. We fenced, briefly, he with his stinger and I with my broom straw, until the gruesome end — without going into too much gory detail, the straw-stabbing tangled him up enough that I felt safe raising the flyswatter, with the yellow jacket attached, and hammering it frantically against corners and edges until he looked at least a little broken. From there it was just a matter of a short trip to the kitchen for something more lethal.
It was, not to overuse the word, horrific. There’s nothing quite like the sight of a vicious, armored, stinging creature wriggling its way slowly free of your only defense. Those things can sting like bajeezus if you give them some room to fly around in; an enclosed porch is not where I ever want to be trapped with an angry one. And the evil-looking bodies and faces don’t improve when you have time to consider them closely, believe you me.
So Halloween horror, a few weeks early. But hey — at least my porch is carpeted, right?