Someone recently posted a picture of a scorpion on Facebook, and asked, “Anybody ever been stung by one of these?”
Normally, I ignore such Facebook posts, on the grounds that I don’t care. Someone else being stung by a scorpion is unlikely to affect me, unless they happen to be, say, performing neurosurgery on me at the time, or maybe driving toward me on a highway. Then it might matter, but someone being stung in the past is pretty much immaterial, no matter who it was.
Being stung myself is a different matter, of course. Pain, they say, is relative, which means it doesn’t hurt so bad if it belongs to a relative, instead of me. If my cousin gets stung, I’m OK with that, as long as I’m not getting stung.
But this time I read some of the responses to the post, because I’ve been stung by scorpions more times than I could possibly count. Growing up in a brick house on a rocky hill in Central Texas, it’s a given that there will be scorpions around. Add to that the fact that my dad didn’t believe in spraying any poison to kill bugs, due to the fact that no one gave bug poison away for free.
So our house was full of scorpions. And when I say full, I mean that, during the course of watching the average episode of Magnum PI on television when I was in high school, my family of four would usually kill two or three scorpions, which we happened to notice crawling across the living room floor. No telling how many got by while we were paying attention to Higgins berate Magnum for using the Ferrari without permission. Again.
Growing up I got stung by scorpions at least once a week, usually once or twice a day. They’re irritating, but the pain is pretty much nothing, and it only lasts maybe five minutes. It helps if you get a shoe and mash the scorpion into oblivian and then laugh like Stalin did after he enslaved Eastern Europe.
Red wasps, however, are a different matter. Entirely. Those things hurt. So when my son, Leret, and I had to rearrange some junk under a shed recently, and discovered a batch of red wasps in an old deer feeder there, it was time to take action.
The feeder was one of those old wind feeders, a five-gallon bucket with a hole in the bottom, and a rod hanging out with a tin thing on it so corn would fall out when the wind blew. It had been hanging in the shed for over ten years, unused, and red wasps had taken up residence in it. From what we could see there was probably a wasp somewhere in a cheap suit and a bad comb-over selling time shares in this deer feeder.
I followed the typical guy protocol when dealing with wasps. I got a small propane torch and a can of WD-40. Leret held a flashlight for me, as this was at night, the best time to kill red wasps, since they’re less active then. But they’re still deadly.
Several feet away from the bucket, I knelt and used a cigarette lighter to get the torch going, but the wasps had already rolled the defense squadron. That’s another problem with red wasps. You can poke around a yellow jacket nest for a long time before they take offense, but red wasps are touchy. And territorial. Get within ten yards of a nest, and they’re liable to scramble the fighters and come after you.
So a wasp, which I couldn’t see because it was dark, ran a flanking maneuver and stung me on the left elbow. Leret was quick, though, and knocked him down and stomped on him, while I did my best impression of Luciani Pavaratto.
Once I got the torch going the game was on. I managed to trap the little devils in their lair, and kept the fire going until smoke was leaking out around the lid of the bucket. Robert Duvall’s napalm affection notwithstanding, there is nothing as satisfying as a batch of roasted red wasps.
When the bucket had cooled for a while we took it down and opened up the top, to see the damage. There were two large nests inside, and a whole pile of dead wasps. More than I’d ever seen in one spot. So many, in fact, that we decided to count them. It took a while, but while Leret counted, I laughed like Stalin.
Unless Leret has been wasting ALL his time at Mason High School, there were 204 adult wasps living in the bucket, and 44 more larvae just about ready to hatch from one of the nests. It was probably the most impressive pile of wasps I’ve ever seen. We took pictures. I’m planning to find a wasp pushing time shares in a different condo, and sell them to him.
My elbow swelled up like a golf ball, and hurt for a couple of days, but it was worth it. Leret had to move the rest of the junk by himself.
I did help, though. I held the flashlight . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who does not recommend using WD-40 to roast wasps, unless you get someone to video it. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org