Wasps Never Forget a Face

“We have wasps,” my housemate said, except she said it in Indonesian and I don’t know the word for wasp, so I just nodded dumbly until I got enough context to figure out what was going on.

What was going on was this: there were wasps building a nest in our garage. This was not good thing. Having already suffered a sting courtesy of one of the large species of wasp that Indonesia has to offer, I heartily agreed with this statement. I also approved of the proposal to have our third housemate—the only man amongst us and the only one still sleeping—deal with the wasps.

One of his first ideas was to light the nest on fire. Just burn it, kill them all, destroy the nest, end of story.

I vetoed this idea. Uncontrolled fire beneath a dry board attached to our house? Not a good idea.

This caused a series of fairly embarrassing Google searches from our IP address. He said that he’d read that you should attack at night. I added that you should cover your flashlight with red cellophane, but I wasn’t sure if that was to protect your night vision (killing wasps is like stargazing!) or if wasps have a hard time seeing red light. He said he’d read that you should put the nest in a bag and then either put it in direct sunlight or freeze it.

This, to me, sounded even more insane than lighting the nest on fire. He wanted to get close enough to touch the nest? What if the wasps stung him through the bag? Was that even possible?

He thought maybe we could use a drawstring bag.

I thought maybe he was crazy.

After actually looking at his drawstring bag, he thought maybe he was crazy too. So much for bagging the nest.

I offered the possibility of spraying the nest with some sort of wasp-killing spray. I even went to the store to look for insecticides. That was about as far as I got. There were a lot of sprays to kill mosquitoes and cockroaches and even ants, but for some reason not wasps. Would cockroach spray kill wasps or would it just anger them?

Best to play it safe.

There was one bottle that had an ambiguous picture of an insect that looked like it could be a wasp, as well as a much more easily identifiable mosquito. This was also the most expensive spray and the directions (in Indonesian and English) only mentioned mosquitoes. I decided not to risk it. I am living within a budget.

I did, however, purchase my housemate a pair of gloves. We figured, whatever method we chose, he’d want some sort of armor.

That night, we regrouped. Google searches suggested everything from smoke to hairspray. I actually had hairspray, and we almost used it, but on inspection decided that the range wasn’t far enough.

Then my housemate suggested boiling water. An interesting suggestion.

“Okay,” I said. “Boil some water, but I want to Google it first.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were many hits concerning boiling water and wasps. Unfortunately, they were all about ground wasps, but I figured we might as well try.

I’d hold the flashlight; he’d throw the water.

“Do you want to practice with regular water first?” I asked.

He did not.

So there we were: him with a bucket of scalding water, me with the flashlight ready to aim, another of our housemates ready to close the door when we came back inside.

The plan worked perfectly. The water arced through my flashlight beam and hit its target. We ran inside and slammed the door, crowing over our success.

The moment of truth came the next morning: was the nest still there? Were there dead, partially boiled wasps littering the ground? How amazing had our air strike really been?

As it turned out, not amazing at all. The nest was still there, looking no worse for wear. There were no dead bodies. In fact, there was a wasp sitting on the nest looking quite pleased with itself. Clearly it was time for us to regroup.

Knocking the nest down became our new goal. Google remained somewhat ambiguous on the subject of whether or not wasps would rebuild if their nest was knocked down. One particularly ridiculous post suggested moving the whole entire nest to a new location, tacking it—still fully intact—on a tree in the idyllic woods somewhere. We unanimously agreed not to follow this plan.

How to knock the nest down without getting stung became the real question. My housemate finally decided on a soccer ball, figuring that it would allow him to stand a safe distance away but still have more force than the water.

We set ourselves up the same way as before, him with the ball, me with the flashlight, our housemate on door duty.

“Ready?” I said.

Direct light.

The ball shot through the air and bounced off the wall with an audible smack. A miss.

I ducked back into the house anyway, a shuddering ball of nerves.

We gathered ourselves and tried again, this time with me ducking in even faster while my housemate exclaimed, “It didn’t fall! It didn’t fall!”

With the door shut on who knew how many angry wasps, we plotted our next move. My housemate came up with the idea of a trash bag, one of those big black ones with the drawstrings.

“Do those exist in Indonesia?” I asked. After all, Ziploc bags don’t.

Maybe at Carrefour, we thought.

As it turned out, no one ended up going to Carrefour the next day. Instead, I mentioned the wasps to one of my friends. After my somewhat confused explanation of why I didn’t want wasps around the entrance to my house, he said, “Okay, let’s look at them.”

We did. He then picked up a plastic bag that someone had left lying by the sink.

“Um, this is not a good idea,” I said, except much less eloquently because I said it in Indonesian.

“Why not?”

“You have to wait until it’s night.” The internet had said so. The internet was also probably right, judging by the five wasps currently crawling around on the surface of the nest.

My friend did not accept this argument as valid and, having used up my allotment of Indonesian words for the day, I was unable to convince him of the folly of his actions. He picked up the wasp hunting gloves, donned by poncho and motorbike helmet, and said, “Close the door.”

“I don’t like this,” I said one more time, and then I shut the door.

I listened with trepidation as the bag rustled. And rustled. What if my friend got stung? It would absolutely be my fault. I thought I still had some anti-histamines in my things somewhere. Probably. Maybe.

My friend knocked on the door. I opened it, ready to slam it shut on the approaching hoard of wasps if necessary.

It wasn’t necessary. There, clutched in his hand, was the plastic bag, no wasps in sight. He tied the top closed and we threw it unceremoniously in the trash.

When I calmed down, I texted my housemate, “Well, the wasps are taken care of.”

2 thoughts on “Wasps Never Forget a Face

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