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Wasp update

After getting stung by a wasp in my car trunk a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to do about it. Should I risk dealing with it myself or call an exterminator? I looked online for solutions, and one suggestion was to put a hunk of dry ice in the car and let the carbon dioxide smother the moths overnight. But I’d have to drive somewhere to get dry ice, so that was a Catch-22 of sorts.

It occurred to me that maybe the building maintenance people would have experience dealing with wasp nests and might be able to help me out, or at least recommend an exterminator. But when I asked the building manager, the only advice I got was to buy some wasp spray from the store, since an exterminator would be expensive. Eventually I decided to go ahead and try that, getting it when I walked to the store to get groceries. I was uneasy about all the warnings on the can about how toxic it was and how to avoid letting it get into the drains or on my clothes or skin, but I couldn’t see another option. Anything more environmentally friendly would require searching farther afield, which would require driving.

I had to wait for the right time to use it, though. It had to be early in the morning before the wasps were active, and it had to be on a day without rain in the forecast, since my car was parked fairly close to a storm drain. When the day came, I followed online advice and bundled up to cover my skin as much as possible — a turtleneck and buttoned-up jacket to protect my arms and throat (since getting stung in the throat area and having an allergic reaction could close off the windpipe, apparently), bike straps around my pant cuffs (they recommended boots, but I don’t have any), heavy gloves, a wool hat over my ears, and of course my glasses and a mask. Fortunately it was a cool morning.

The wool hat, by the way, is a gift GraphicAudio sent me after hiring me to write Tangent Knights for them. They sent it last winter, and it was very handy, since it often got cold in my apartment overnight.

I also took the long wooden bar that I’d used to knock away the nest the first time, using it to pry open the trunk from a distance. I spotted the nest after a moment; it was in a different place than before, a bit lower and attached to the body of the car rather than the trunk lid. Making sure the wind wasn’t blowing toward me, I sprayed it liberally with the spray, which was a thick white liquid, not the kind of bug spray I’m used to. I fear that I probably used rather more of it than I needed, since I wanted to make really sure. Once I saw no more wasp activity around the nest, I sprayed other areas around the rim of the trunk and a bit in the wheel wells, and even squirted a bit behind the side mirrors, since I’d seen a wasp crawl into the left mirror cowling (or whatever it’s called) some weeks before.

Then I walked away, since the instructions said to let it sit for at least 24 hours until the poison killed the queen and any returning wasps.  I was concerned that I’d left a significant puddle of the liquid on the pavement behind the car, but I really didn’t know what to do about it; I wasn’t supposed to wash it away or let it go down the drain, and I didn’t know how I could safely clean it up by any other means. The instructions said just to let it sit for a day, and I hoped that meant it would just break down naturally in the environment, and that any animals would avoid it. My car wasn’t parked very close to the building or to other cars, so I hoped it would be okay.

When I got up the next morning, there was light rain earlier than had been predicted, which was of some concern, but I hoped enough time had probably passed for the spray to break down or whatever it did. When I went to the car, though, not only did I see no trace of the puddle, but there was no residue of the liquid anywhere on the car where I’d sprayed it. I’d expected dried encrustations or something, but there was nothing at all. I don’t think the rain that morning was heavy enough to account for that, so I figure it must have evaporated on its own, hopefully well before the rain came.

Anyway, I took the same precautions as the day before, just in case, and pried open the trunk to get rid of the nest. I wasn’t pleased to see that there was still one live wasp on the nest, but it was sluggish and I didn’t see any others. I used the wooden bar to deal with it and scrape off the nest, along with a couple of what looked like eggs stuck next to where the nest had been. Then I used my long-handled ice scraper to try to scrape away any residue of anything around the rest of the trunk, and then I applied a little more wasp spray to various crevices just to play it safe, then walked away for another day — actually a couple of days, as it turned out, since there was more rain the next day.

When I checked back again, I saw no sign of wasps, but I wanted to reduce the chances of a recurrence. So I drove up to the local gas station and used the window-cleaning squeegee and paper towels provided there to try to clean out all the accumulated plant matter around the edges of the trunk under the lid, to make it less inviting as a wasp habitat. (I probably should go to a proper car wash, but I didn’t feel ambitious enough to try that.) And when I came back, I parked in the front lot of the building rather than the rear, in hopes of altering as many variables as possible to prevent a recurrence.

Yesterday I drove to pick up groceries again, still bundling up in my jacket and wool hat just in case, but I saw no wasps around the car even though it was quite warm, so that’s a good sign. (I took off the jacket and hat once I got in the car.) Still, just to play it extra-safe, I asked the clerk to put the groceries in the back seat instead of the trunk. And when I got home (still parking in the front lot, even though that’s a longer schlep for the groceries), I found it’s actually a little easier to collect grocery bags from the back seat than from the trunk. So I may do that regularly from now on, even without wasps to worry about. Maybe some good came of this after all.

I wish I’d at least avoided being stung, though.

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