“I never panic when I get a wasp at my ear. As soon as you strike out, they’ll sting you. So just stay cool.”
Martin McGinness, Irish Republican politician (1950-2017)
It was midday and only 79 degrees; the wind was slightly blowing while clouds covered the sky. Hallelujah, a little break in the weather, though the earth was still dry and desert-like. After all the floods of spring and early summer we thirst for water. The ground cracks, the leaves fall or hang limp. A truck passes on the gravel road, leaving a cloud of thick dust that settles on everything like a winter blanket.
Through the window I see a fox squirrel at the edge of the perennial garden. He hops to the top of the fence and then over. He’s headed to the goldfish pond where there’s a water dripper. I often sit there myself being refreshed. Fox squirrels don’t risk coming so close, but now he seeks water sources. Not unlike the birds splashing in the cats’ water bowl. I’ve dispersed water bowls in various places for the cats. The one atop the picnic table has attracted the birds. Three birds take turns flitting in and out of the water bowl. They seem to bathe as much as drink. Do the cats arrive and think, “Somebody’s been bathing in my water bowl!” There is a birdbath, but the birds seem to enjoy flaunting themselves in the cats’ water bowl.
Past the picnic table and into the woods, spider lilies spring up as if by the hour. You never know when and where they will sprout. No wonder they are also known as surprise lilies. The lilies are a welcomed surprise, but some visitors are not so welcomed.
First there was one, and then another, and then they became regulars. One by one what we thought were small bees were showing up on the inside windows of the sunroom. Sam swatted a couple and I picked them up to examine them. “Oh, they’re honeybees, pollinators; I hate to kill them.”
I turned them over and over, noticing they were quite small and not furry. The wings were clear. The stripes were yellow and black. “I think they are a type of wasp,” Sam said. “I’ve seen them come out of the ground when I was mowing.”
The next day there were a few more, and a few more the next. In a couple of days, we had swatted about 20. Still, we could find no point of entry. That evening one of the little fellows attached to my neck with a fierce sting. Resorting to the internet we learned they are called southern yellow wasps or yellow jackets. They can sting multiple times, and if you are allergic, can be deadly. We are not allergic. They are looking for water and food sources this time of year, just like the fox squirrel and the splashing birds.
Should you get stung by a yellow jacket and you are not allergic (an allergic reaction is a medical emergency), there are many home remedies: a cold compress using a water bottle or bag of frozen vegetables, a baking soda paste or vinegar compress. You can apply honey, a slice of onion, common ammonia, or white toothpaste. The sting and the swelling should abate.