Warning: Graphic material, not suitable for all readers. Sexually explicit, murder and cannibalism. This could get ugly. Also, please note: For the sake of this piece, I will occasionally refer to yellow jackets as bees. I am not referring to honey bees, but their nasty cousins that give painful stings and make outdoor dining impossible.
(The beloved ^^Honey Bee and the dreaded ^^ Yellow Jacket)
Strange happenings at our house. Way too late this year, I went out and bought one of those yellow jacket traps, because we could no longer eat on our deck without being driven away by aggressive yellow jackets. I purchased the variety that uses a yellow jacket pheromone; they’re highly effective. The pheromone attracts the bees; they crawl into the trap, all horny and anxious to see what the Queen’s up to, and then they can’t get out. If they ingest the pheromone material, which the greedy guys generally do, they die. It’s like that whole Roman orgy thing where all these guys (and they are all males) show up to have sex, get wildly intoxicated and then pass out, inside this yellow, cone shaped, bee love shack. You may doubt me, but there is amazing research about the sexual habits of yellow jackets: multiple partners, frenzied orgies, the works. I kid you not. Either way, they crawl in and they can’t get back out, so they ultimately die in there.
Admittedly, I’ve had mixed feeling about my role in all this killing. For years, following the Dalai Llama‘s lead , I would carefully carry bugs, spiders, moths, etc out of our house and release them. I try not to actively kill living things. I make one big exception: slugs, which I am willing to kill en masse. When I first put the trap up, about two and a half months ago, it filled immediately. It was amazing how many bees flew in the very first two days! I had to empty it twice the first week and put new pheromone in. They warn you to be very careful and not get any on you. The visualization of what might happen drives me to paranoid levels when emptying and then refilling the damned thing. Anyway, the trap worked.
About three weeks ago there were fewer and fewer bees flying in. As the temperatures dropped. I figured the yellow jackets were all going wherever they go for the winter and we were done for the season. But, alas, we had a wonderful warm spell last week and sunny days since. Suddenly, there were more bees flying in again and some days, lots of them. I would look out my window in the morning and see what looked like a pile of dead yellow jackets and then late afternoon, it would be swarming with them again. The trap would be filled and the guys were just flying around like crazy. I thought our trap was just incredible, catching so many each day.
(<– Waking up) Then something occurred to me. Perhaps the ones that looked dead in the morning, were just cold and sleeping, and the ones in the afternoon were the same bees: wide awake, pissed off and sexed up again. So today, I went out there in the morning and got up close to the trap. Sure enough, there was an entire trap full of bees slowly moving their wings and antennae, but otherwise perfectly still. Two larger ones were up in the top cone area, slightly more active. It was clear that they sleep in the cold of night and early day and then wake up in the “warmth” and go crazy again.
(<– The small white spots are larvae) As I looked carefully, studying them, I realized that there were bee parts everywhere! Partially digested, small yellow jacket heads, wings, limbs… a yellow jacket killing field. Oh the horror! I was transfixed. Then, as I stood realizing that all of this violence and sex was happening just outside my window day after day, I also noticed that there were larvae in the trap! That’s right these lascivious little cannibals have built a nest in the trap! They are reproducing in there. It was unreal. Of course, I am now officially a baby killer as well, because those little baby yellow jackets are not coming out alive, if I can help it.
I stared at them for long minutes and then realized that they seemed to sense that I was there. I had only briefly moved the trap, but they all gravitated to the side where I stood watching and then continued moving their wings and antennae amidst the body parts and larvae. I was their Queen! It makes perfect sense: I built the nest (or bought it at Fred Meyers and hung it out there); I put the pheromone in there ; and so the nest is mine. Hence, I am the Queen! (Somebody’s Watching Me ^)
When the kids got home from school, I excitedly told them what I had figured out and showed them “my” colony. Little Man looked at me skeptically and said, “At best mom, I think you’re a Bee keeper.” Feh. I refuse to accept that. They recognized me as their leader. I am sticking with that theory. I may not be able to get three teenagers to eat what I cook for dinner; or have as much control over my environment as I’d like, but out on my deck, for a few more weeks, I am the Queen Bee at last! (Note: Click on photos to see more detail and check out the links.)
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