Are you afraid of wasps? Are you that person armed with a can of wasp and hornet spray in each hand every summer? Well, even that won’t save you this time.
If you live in southern Alabama, you’d better suit up in body armor, because legions of wasps are coming for you. This really is like Candyman or that so-bad-it’s-good ‘70s movie The Swarm come to life. Some nests are as huge as — this is not a dramatic exaggeration — a Volkswagen Beetle (kind of appropriate since it’s nicknamed the Bug). Whatever you do, armor optional, officials are warning that you need professional help if one of these super-nests is buzzing around you.
Unfortunately, this isn't about that Wasp. Think supervillain(s) instead of superhero. When Alabama resident James Barron headed over to his smokehouse for the first time in two months, he ran into a ginormous nest, and ginormous in this case means extending across the entire wall and 7 feet wide. Barron ran for it. He and his son returned to the nest later, armed with hornet killer, but it only got the already aggressive yellow jackets even angrier. He walked away with 11 stings.
“It’s just now really showed up, and it’s gigantic,” Barron told The New York Times.
When entomologist Charles Ray investigated, he confirmed this thing to be a super-nest. There were anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000 wasps in there. While most wasp nests end up abandoned after one summer, these superpowered ones can survive into a second year. Even scarier, there were at least three more nests like this found in Alabama this summer, when the average number is usually just one or two. The year 2006 saw an explosion of super-nests in the area. That year, there were 90.
Ray told the Times that he expects to see something close to that number this year. Warmer winters are to blame for swarms like this, since wasps usually freeze or starve to death in the cold. The queens are the only freaks of nature that have an antifreeze compound in their blood. If they survive, the population can spiral out of control. Yellow jackets also don’t just drop dead after they sting like bees do. They can get you again and again.
Now for the final nightmare. If this winter is warm enough, that nest in Barron’s smokehouse could double or triple in size. Alabamians, keep an exterminator on speed dial and load up on wasp killer like it’s doomsday.
(via The New York Times)