Mike Schuh's Battle Of The Basement

I wrote and sent this to my co-workers and several friends while waiting to see if I had truly dispatched all of the enemy's forces. I figured that I couldn't risk leaving any of them alive for my housemate to unexpectedly encounter in the morning... (I have corrected some spelling and grammatical errors from the original and have added some sentences that I had intended to include)

I have a list of resources at the bottom of this page.

Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2003 06:53:24 -0700 (PDT)
From: Mike Schuh
Subject: well, *THAT* was fun

Hi all,

I'm pretty sure that I will live and that the cats will as well.  
Hopefully, none of my adversaries will.

Shortly after I returned from vacation a week ago, I noticed a strange
sound in or near the wall of my basement computer room.  As it came from
near one of the speakers in my sound system, I thought it might be static
or some such.  A day or so ago, I tested that theory by turning off the
system - nope, the sound continued.  Still, it sounded like the faint
snapping that I associate with electrical discharges.  Hmm, could there be
some current leakage from one of the wires in the vicinity?  If so, why
now and not previously, given that I haven't changed anything?  Not
likely.  Hmm.  Probably some kind of chewing insect, carpenter ants or the
like, making sawdust of my house.  I had visions of them destroying the
wall and collapsing the house, thereby bringing down upon me the roof and
the full wrath of my mortgage company.  I also had visions of what a pain
it would be to get rid of them and repair the damage.

Well, late last night I discovered (and ultimately eliminated) the source
of the noise.  I got curious yet again and started poking around on the
wall near the sound.  I noticed that the wall board was soft in one area,
as if the gypsum inside had been dissolved by water.  Great, I figure,
it's not pulp mill ants (which are far worse than mere carpenter ants),
it's water damage from a leak in the nearby water line.  At one point,
however, I poked a bit too hard and broke through the wallboard's paper.  
Seeing that it was something other than water damage, I beat a most rapid
retreat, closing doors behind me.

The good news is that it wasn't any kind of ant, pulp mill, carpenter, or 

The bad news is that they were rather pissed that I had poked a hole in 
"their" home.

The good news is that they are no longer pissed but are now dead.

The bad news is that I used chemical WMDs to fight the battle.

The good news is that I won (and that's what counts, right?).

The bad news is that I had other things that I wanted to do last night,
like sleep (so why did I go poking around?).

The good news is that my left hand is not swelling up too badly.

The bad news is that my left hand *is* painful.

The good news is that the hasty protective suit that I fashioned out a
thick jacket, wool cap, and work gloves seemed effective, especially after
I sealed off the various openings with duct tape.

The bad news is that I didn't apply the duct tape until after I got stung.

Bees.  Or, more likely, yellow jackets, which are wasps.  Easily, hundreds
of them, in the wall of my basement.

Having closed the door as I ran upstairs, I pondered the situation.  I
checked my local cache of chemicals, but the only weapon I found that was
even close was some flea spray.  So, a quick trip to pick up a can of Raid
from the local chemical weapons depot (known hereabouts by its code name
"Ballard Market").

Returning, I donned a heavy jacket, wool cap, and work gloves.  Figuring 
that I should start outside (where I could see how the spray can worked 
without unduly hosing down the interior of my house with a nasty 
pesticide), I also grabbed my hiking/orienteering headlamp.  I went 
downstairs and peeked at the hole in the wall/hive.

I don't know why the word "swarming" is used.  It really seems inadequate.
"Billowing" seems more like it.

Anyway, there were wasps flying all around the basement.  I quickly went 
outside.  The hive is/was about 18" below and to the north of the water 
faucet for the back yard (this faucet is fed by the aforementioned water
line).  I looked for an obvious opening, but couldn't 
find one.  I banged on the wall in the vicinity, hoping to scare some of 
them out - the idea was to locate the opening.  Of course, as I think 
about it now, a similar kind of poking around resulted in a hole in my 
basement wall and a computer room full of angry yellow jackets.  You'd 
think I'd learn.

Nonetheless, one wasp, doubtless violating proper security procedures,
did fly out and reveal the secret entrance to the 
hive.  It was the opening in the siding around the water faucet itself.  I 
sprayed a healthy dose (well, OK, an *unhealthy* dose) of Raid into the 
opening and a shot at the wasp that flew out.

Inside, I shot one long burst of Raid into the opening and then, when I
got stung, retreated once more.  A paste of baking soda on the hand and
then a quick sortie downstairs to get the duct tape.

I had to use my bathroom mirror to see where I was applying the duct
tape.  As I looked at myself, I debated taking a picture of my get up.
Naw, let's just get the job done.

Thus armored, I returned to the battlefield.  Checking the hive opening, I
found a large pile of dead (or nearly dead) wasps.  Geez, that stuff must
be really potent to create that much carnage with but one shot (maybe that's
why it has all those ominous warnings on the can).  Just the same, I fired a
few more bursts into the opening.  I also noticed that the sticky
fly-paper strip that I had hung up a day or so earlier to catch a big
housefly (in vain) was on the floor, covered with wasps.  I don't know if
I knocked it down during one of my rapid retreats or if it fell from the
accumulated weight of dead yellow jackets (well over 60 of them).

The initial spray into the opening seemed to do most of the work.  There
were still a few (well, OK, a lot) flying around, but I was able to pick
them off easily enough.  Also, hanging up another fly strip caught an
additional dozen.  Altogether, the battle lasted an hour or so.  No body
count was immediately available.

One concern that I had at the outset was how to warn Jack, my housemate, 
who had already gone to bed.  I had visions of him getting up in the
morning and then getting stung while going to take a shower - not a pretty
sight (by "sight" I mean him getting stung, not the other bit about the
shower).  Should I wake him?  But then he might come 
out of his room (which is in the basement) and get stung.  Leave a note?  
He might not see it before he unsuspectingly encountered the first wasp.  
Fortunately, I heard that he was still awake and I was able to warn him.

Mopping up (almost literally) took a while.  I wanted to make sure that I 
got any Raid residue off of any surface that the cats would walk on (the 
Raid would get on their feet, which they would then lick).  Putting a fan 
at the top of the basement stairs, blowing out the back door, helped 
clear out the air (I let it run all night - thankfully it was warm 
yesterday, not that wasps are a problem in the winter).  I haven't started 
disposing of the bodies; I'll do that when I can run the vacuum cleaner.

I also need to wash all of the clothes I was wearing (except the duct
tape - that's going in the trash).

By the way, in the process of battling the wasps, I think that I also
vanquished the big housefly.  Either that or it's lying low somewhere.

For the most part, I was able to keep the cats out of the war zone.  They 
seem OK, but I'll keep a close watch on them over the next few days.

My hand is OK, still hurts a bit, but I have been able to type this
without too much difficulty.  It was too painful to type at first, but the
pain has subsided.  No signs of allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock
(if there had been, I'd be in the Ballard Hospital ER now, not here).  
[Tony: I'll see how it feels in another hour or so and decide about going
in to work today.]

Basement reconstruction plans will be forthcoming.


I did go in to work later that day, arriving a bit after 1 PM (my co-workers, to whom I had sent this message, among others, were still chuckling - they asked if I had taken any pictures). My pants and shoes (which I wore during the battle) still had traces of duct tape adhesive on them.

That evening I cleaned up some of the carnage. There must have been something like 200 or more wasps! Three months later I was still finding more dead ones.

My hand itched for the next couple of weeks, but that was about it. My cats do not seem to have been affected by the battle (although I think they were laughing at me when I was all bundled up).

Some wasp related resources: Last update: September 1, 2005 09:15:31 PDT
To Mike Schuh's home page
Mail (but not spam) is welcome to:
schuh AT farmdale D0T com

Thank you for the visit.