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Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Each year here in Alaska about the time our tourists start thinning out another guest emerges and aggressively begins creating havoc in Alaska. Even though this creature of the wild is very small (about a half inch long) compared to the massive size of a moose or bear she is plenty dangerous not only to us Alaskans but all over the world. In fact several lives are lost each year in the United States after being attacked by this angry little pest with a terrific temper. They are easy to spot all dressed up in their bright yellow and black stripped suits.

They will fight to the death to protect their nests which can be home to as many as 5000 others. They fear nothing and may attack for no reason at all and can administer a very painful sting in seconds. Have you indentified this grumpy little pest yet? It is Mrs. Yellow jacket which is a member of the wasp family.

These wasps like to live in an underground nest often times under a log or even in a hollowed out log in a paper nest. The entrance is about the size of a nickel and will have a guard posted there to alert the rest of the colony of any approaching danger. They are not like some other bees that lose their stinger after one use they can keep right on stinging you as their stinger remains intact.

In the spring they are attracted to protein food like hamburgers and even fish. Later in the summer or fall they switch their diets to sweets like a can of soda. NEVER leave a can of soda outside if you intend on returning to drink it. You could have several yellowjackets on the inside of that can. Besides the risk of getting stung on the inside of your mouth swallowing them might be a very painful experience as they could sting all the way down! The swelling from these stings could also cause suffocation.

Many people are allergic to bee or wasp stings which could lead to death if not treated immediately. Some symptoms of being allergic to bee stings are severe swelling away from the area of the sting, widespread skin irritation, swelling of the throat or difficulty breathing, dizziness or fainting. If you experience any of these symptoms seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor can prescribe medicine to be taken immediately after being stung to which could very likely save your life. The companies that sell you this medicine even have an expiration list and will contact you if your medicine is getting close to expiration.

Another interesting fact about the wasp family is that all the worker bees are females armed with stingers. The males only appear for a short time during the cycle. The only member of the colony to survive the winter is the queen. This leads me to the following conclusion that I have figured out and not a scientific fact. I don’t blame the male bees for taking the summer off and enjoying life if they are going to work all summer around a bunch of grumpy females and then end up dying anyway! Just like all the biting insects we humans have to deal with here in Alaska it is once again the females of each species that cause us the most grief.

One way to trap wasp is to suspend a fish on a tripod over a tub of water. Wet the fish down with a wetting agent like soap, when the wasp bites off a chuck of fish he will fall to the water and because of the soap he will not be able to float and drown. There are many other sprays and poisons you can also buy but I prefer a propane bottle, rose bud torch and a water hose if you find a nest that needs to be destroyed.

Bees look for movement when they are fighting to protect their nest, often times they see the movement of the flame on the propane torch and attempt to land on it. An angry bee without wings is like a fighter jet without wings. A bee crawling around the ground does not make much of a threat to you or members of your family. By the way the water hose is just in case you got a little careless with your torch and needed to put out a small grass fire.

This past week I had a member of my family Colt got stung by a yellow jacket while attempting to move our family sheep. I had just gone through the area pulling weeds from our strawberry beds. A very angry mob of yellow jackets was now clouding the area which alarmed me due to the area they were in and the amount of children that are constantly playing ball in my yard.

I grabbed my weed eater torch and walked out to my strawberry patch and declared war on the yellow jacket girls. They are some of the fastest flying meanest members of the insect world but they were no match for the flame of that torch. Within two days of sporadic fighting they were completely destroyed. I can now pick strawberries without worrying about them. Guys if your leaving the house with your propane torch to fight these yellow jackets just say bees as the lady of the house might not understand the phrase “Going to fight the girls!” See you next week!



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