July 01, 2004
One of the reasons I always carry chewing tobacco with me when I hike or camp is for medicinal purposes. Yeah, I enjoy a good chew and I like the sizzle it makes when I spit in the campfire, but that's not the real reason I bring it along as an essential supply.
I've scared up a nest of yellow jackets more than once in my life, and a wet tobacco poultice is the only thing I've ever found that will take away the sting and reduce the swelling when you get hit by a dozen or so of those bastards. Yellow jackets live in the ground and you won't know they're there until you step in the wrong place. If you make that mistake, the sumbitches come boiling out like orcs in Lord of the Rings and they are seriously on the warpath.
A single yellow jacket can sting you more than once, too. One flew right down my shirt one day and hit me five times before I could kill him. If you find yourself in a cloud of them, you'll be doing the damnedest boogaloo you ever imagined as you run for your life. The stings feel like small-caliber gunshot wounds.
A commenter suggested on a previous post about hornets that you should just stand still and don't move in that situation. Try that trick on yellow jackets. They'll sting the ever-lovin' piss out of you, whether you're moving or not. Yellow jackets are about the meanest insect I've ever encountered.
Maybe that's why I hate Georgia Tech so much.
T.H.W.G. Piss on the Bullfrog nation. In the spirit of togetherness, or course.;-)
Seriously, though, I was camping in the Cohutta wilderness a few years ago when my buddy kicked up a nest on his way to a spring. He was stung over 80 times, and the only thing that saved his life was the Benadryl in my pack. I had to haul his puking ass 12 miles to the trail head and drive to Dalton Ga for emergency assistance. Even with 4 Bens in him, his airway was just about closed when we arrived. Scary little critters, and VERY aggressive in August/September when they're nesting.
I was the one who made the comment about standing still.
First, I'm definitely not recommending it. It worked for me ONCE, with wasps. I never had the balls to try it again.
Second, I know from personal experience that it doesn't work with yellow jackets. I tried it once when I hit a nest while mowing a lawn. Those little bastards don't care if you run, stand still or offer them your wallet.
The little bastards bite, too. Hurts like the dickens.
Needless to say, I kill on sight if I see them nesting on my property (hornets, yellwojackets, whatever. We have paper-nest wasps up here that bite and sting, and they look just like yellowjacket ground-wasps, too. Hate. Unending hate.)
I've learned more than a bit about yellowjackets, as I'm horribly allergic and could die from one sting. (The fellow who posted about hauling his friend out of the woods after multiple stings is not exaggerating).
Yellowjacket queens hibernate. They LOVE cut firewood, because cut wood actually produces heat as it dries, which means that if you have a fireplace or a woodstove, it's highly likely that you'll warm up a queen or two and find her in the house with you when you bring in a load of wood.
The queens nest not in August, but in March. If you're unlucky enough to have one overwinter in your garage or your home, it wouldn't be uncommon to see queen yellowjackets on your window in March or April (earlier in warmer parts of the country). Remember: Every one of these you kill is a NEST that won't be made!!
In August and September, the queens close the nests and drive the workers out. This is why yellowjacket traps are FULL in Aug./Sept. It's rare at this point you'll catch a queen then.
My best trick for catching queen yellowjackets before they hibernate?
Leave a pan out (keep your pets out of it!), and check it every few days. Queen yellowjackets are attracted to the stuff by a means I don't quite understand. You'll find a dozen or so from late August through September/October -- and that's enough to prevent 'em from nesting on your property!
Those little bastards hurt more than anything that I have ever been stung with and I've had them all, including a hornet sting on my eyelid. I hate them.
The last time I got stung was by about 5 or 6 of them. My whole body broke out in hives in seconds, especially around my heart and then the hives were all gone 5 minutes later. If they have any redeeming value on this earth, I would like to know what it is. Damn the little buggers, I get ill just thinking about them!
I think they're around to keep us from getting too full of ourselves. I certainly don't feel very manly after the dancing, running, and yelping involved in trying (and failing) to escape a bunch of insects that are about 1/1000th my size.
Fortunately, I seem to have an unnatural immunity to 'em, but that doesn't mean I enjoy getting stung...
The one wasp sting I remember getting was nothing compared to the ordinary honeybee stings I've had. Got one on my chin that would still flare up for no apparent reason 20 years later. It's been a few years since the last flare-up, but it wouldn't surprise me if I got one or two more reminders between now and the bright light.