Military Tactics Sometimes Needed In the Wilderness

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

When I stepped off the front porch in the hot and humid Hoosier wilderness I heard a buzzing.

It wasn’t the high-pitched buzz of a mosquito, it wasn’t the military cargo plane buzz of a horsefly either. And it wasn’t the silent buzz of a deerfly as it lands on your neck. That silent buzz is followed by an ouch-slap-and-new-corpse of the biting fly.

No, this buzz was a choir, an ensemble of insects. I traced the sound up to the rain gutter at the corner of the porch. There was constant activity as normally ground dwelling yellow jackets flew in and out under the gutter’s rain cap meant to keep leaves and debris out.

When I took a step closer to try to get a better look, three yellow jacket guards with attitude peered at me from the roof seemingly daring me to do something.

So I did. I retreated. Experienced has taught me not to fool with the flying stingers in the daytime. At night, if there are in a burrow in the ground, some diesel fuel can be poured down the hole and the menace is vanquished.

But this rare, above my head threat would take some contemplation as I would have to disassemble the leaf guard in order to see where the yellow jacket nest was, then eliminate it.

So before dusk I assembled my combat equipment: stepladder, 1/4” nut driver to remove the gutter guard, checking the flashlight for fully charged batteries. I usually opt for some aerosol carburetor cleaner to do it in wasp nests. When they get hit by that spray, they drop. And you can buy it for a dollar and some change at any dollar store.

Ready to do battle I just waited for the dark of night.

About 10 p.m. I began my frontal assault, positioning the stepladder where I could reach all of the metal threaded connectors.

Before beginning, I tapped the gutter to make sure the yellow jackets were asleep. Being met with silence, I nervously began my tedious attack. With small flashlight gripped firmly between my teeth, I shakily removed the threaded connectors and lifted up the gutter guard ever so slightly to peer in.

To my amazement, there was a softball size nest that would block the flow of any water through the gutter. Not anticipating a nest that large, I turned in the small caliber carburetor spray spritzer for the rapid fire deluge of a name brand hornet spray.

As I re-ascended the ladder and reached for the gutter, the end of my moustache touched my forearm and I flinched thinking I was about to be stung. I chuckled and gave myself a “Ya big chicken”.

I lifted the gutter guard, and bombarded the nest full of stingers. When the spraying ended, there was brief buzzing, then silence. A re-check with the flashlight showed the wood pulp fiber nest now darkened with the fast working petroleum-based insecticide.

I opted for the light of day to remove the nest. The next morning, using a small gardening trowel I dissected the nest from the metal gutter. It was bigger than I first thought and more than filled my left hand. But not for long… in case there were wounded survivors seeking vengeance.

Later that afternoon, I took the larva filled nest to the bench on the dock and flicked tender protein to the bluegill. I took me about 45 minutes to extract the larva for single serving fish morsels.

Now some of you more tender of heart readers may think I was harsh and sadistic in my treatment of the yellow jackets. But having been stung multiple times when mowing by the ground nesting attackers, I choose not to give them an even chance.

My Gramp used to tell me “You don’t bother them and they won’t bother you.” Having been stung by nests I never saw and wasps I wasn’t bothering, that was the only time my Gramp lied to me.