Stirring Up the Hornet's Nest

stinging insect on tree trunk

 The idiom of "stirring up the hornet's nest" is a way of saying that your are dealing with a volatile situation that makes people angry or upset.  Obviously, that phrase stems from the fact that if you were to stir or disturb a literal hornets nest, the hornets would react aggressively.  It is safe  to say that you wouldn't volunteer to stir the literal hornet's, but it raises a valid question about a much more common action; would you plug the only entrance to a hornet's nest, which would prevent them from coming and going, feeding their young and their reproductives, regulating nest temperature and humidity, and guarding their home?

             Honey bees, yellow jackets, and bald faced hornets share something in common with us, they are social animals.  This means that they have a sense of community and they put a great deal of effort into raising their young.  So let's paint a scenario, one that will take more imagination for some than for others.  So you have a big extended family, and you like them.  Alright, so you don't have to be especially fond of them, but you like them enough to make sure that they and their children don't starve or get killed by predators.  I hope that last part doesn't take too much imagination but since I don't know your family I'll just move on.  So you and all of your family live in the same apartment building and work together for the good of your community.  One day a neighbor who is irritated with/afraid of you comes and sprays your doors with tear gas, boards all of your windows shut, barricades the doors, and turns off your air conditioner.  My guess is that you would all shrug your shoulders at your misfortune and peacefully starve to death.  No?  But surely hymenoptera(social insects with stingers) have a weaker will to live than we do, or maybe they confuse easily, right?

             While these sound like ridiculous assumptions, they are the exact assumptions that scores of new customers make every year before they call our office in an annoyed or panicked condition.  Let me clarify that I am not ridiculing anyone who has done this, I just want to educate everyone I can for future situations like this because making the wrong decisions with these pests can cause painful injuries and even death for some people.

            Typically, between July and September, you may see around the outside of your home large and active congregations of these pests.  During the heat of the day you will see a cloud of insects hovering around one or two spots with a small entrance passing through to a wall void, a space underneath your porch, a soffit void, or even a hole in the ground.  Many times people will underestimate the extent of an infestation like this to include only the dozen insects that they see outside of the nest at any given time. What they don't know is that the individuals that they see are members of the colony that are  charged with foraging for food and nesting material or scouting and defense.  Behind the entrance lives hundreds, even thousands of other colony members.  A common response is to spray the hole with a can of insecticide until you see a pile of dead bugs.  Satisfied with your success, you caulk the hole shut or stuff a rag in it (soaked in insecticide for good measure).  Over the next two to three days you continue to pat yourself on the back, after all, you've seen no activity and there are even a few more dead bugs.  Then one day, they are back in full force, using a hole a few inches from the one that you sealed.  Turns out they didn't stay in their apartment building to die.  Bees, wasps, and hornets build their large and beautiful (in my opinion) nests out of paper, all of which they have cut and compiled from leaves, twigs, and other available materials.  Their ability to cut this material also enables them to dig their way out of some pretty well boarded windows and barricaded doors.  It is not uncommon to find these insects heading toward the inside of the home to make their escape by chewing through a sheetrock wall covering.  Then the infestation that you didn't like outside of your front door is now in your basement family room.

           The point is, when you underestimate the abilities of pests that infest your home you often times make more work for yourself and sometimes expose your family to danger.  One way to prevent infestations like this is to eliminate entry points into your home.  Excess space around hose bibs, air conditioner condensation lines, spaces around windows, broken soffit, etc. all make for inviting shelter opportunities.  Should you find that these pests have already moved in, the safest and most successful treatment is done by an experienced professional, and I happen to know a few.  2014 was a fantastic year to be a pest professional, so thank you to all of our loyal customers, and I hope that we will have a chance to serve any and all that need our services in 2015.

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