Be Gentle... It's My First Time
Ok ok you bunch of perverts, the title of this story is a bit of a stretch. If you decided to read this because of the title you may have stumbled across the wrong blog…having said that..you will be very disappointed indeed. This is a story about my first wildlife removal job…ever! I had not even returned home from my 3 week training boot camp in Atlanta yet (boot camp is a conservative description). Mind you I had no uniform or any other products in my truck except a few squirrel traps, some wire mesh and a few cans of bug spray. I was not prepared for the call I was about to receive. My training session prepared me to deal with some of the more common animals I would encounter in the field but mostly it emphasized on the people and the sales aspect of the job. I happen to be quite the lousy salesman, but I love dealing with people so I was very excited to meet my very first customer and help solve his problem. I gave him a price on the phone while driving…first mistake. I then listened to his story about how he keeps randomly finding wasps in his house and always in the same room. I diagnosed the issue as if maybe there was a cracked window or something letting them in..second mistake. My inexperience was only obvious to me sitting in my truck with no uniform and barely any equipment. My customer bought it though and said, “come on out and see what you can find”. So I reached over and tried peeling the wrapper off my new and un-used notebook planner. I got his information written down (yes while driving..don’t judge me) and proceeded to his house which was an hour in the opposite direction.
I arrived at the customer’s home after getting lost in several “not so nice” neighborhoods. My mother let me have her Tom-Tom GPS to use for my new career! It was the first model they developed and it was terrible…that thing would send me down a one way street and tell me to drive across a river instead of the way that actually included paved roads. Anyhow, this guy was a run of the mill handy man who specialized in sheet-rock work. He looked like the kind of guy you would imagine to be in that sort of work. Grey ponytail with some military tattoos on his arm (later I found out he served in Vietnam) he said “dude” and “far out” a lot and seemed to be a down to earth guy. He met me in the driveway and said, “Dude, I need to show you something weird…”. To me at this point in my new found career, it was not difficult for me to be weirded out..everything was weird to me. I just had to go off of what I learned in training and what I learned about animal behavior in college. He walked me through the house, passed the coffee table with the bong and pyramid of Coors Light cans and passed his snoring wife on the couch, down to the first bedroom on the left in the hallway. He walked in and said, “You see that wall…? There is some paint chipped off of it and I thought I saw a wasp come out of there. I could have been seeing things though”. I slowly walked over and flicked the paint chip gently with my finger. It fell to the floor and uncovered what looked like a piece of grey and brown newspaper behind the paint. I thought to myself, “Damn they painted over some ugly wall paper!”. Well, I decided to take a pen and poke the “ugly wall paper” only to discover that it was hollow…. And that out of nowhere there were some big damn orange wasps trying to crawl out of the hole that my pen had made. These wasps were no joke..they were about 1 inch long with huge pinching mandibles. These large orange wasps were queen yellow jackets!). They were so strong that they were forcing my pen out of the hole. I calmly turned around and noticed a roll of clear packaging tape on the desk behind me. I looked at the big eyed pony tailed man and with a smile said, “can you hand me that tape…as quickly as possible?”. He looked at me and said “sure thing dude”. I snatched the tape out of his hand as politely as I could and put a piece over the hole I had stupidly made in this huge paper wasp nest. It was like a type of “freaky bug fish tank” that you could look into. Calm on the outside while violent pandemonium ensued on this inside. The wasps with the huge pincers were chewing at the tape trying to get through. I looked at the guy and said, “we are gonna need more tape”. I made the tape several layers thick and decided that I had some extra time to go outside and look for entry points. The wasps didn’t just appear there and live without a way in and out after all. I went outside and immediately noticed the funnel shaped hole at the top of the window where the frame meets the brick. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to treat these things at this point. There were hundreds going in and out of this finger sized hole. So, I thought about what I actually knew about wasps (these were yellow jackets which is a type of paper wasps). Wasps use pheromones to communicate. In order for me not to get stung, I had to refrain from my usual clumsy and careless behavior and not give them a reason to release the “kick his ass” command pheromone. So, knowing that they wouldn’t sting me if I was not threatening them, I gained a little sense of false security (false security as given me the ability to complete jobs that most people are not dumb enough to try to do). I got my six foot ladder off of my truck and slowly put it against the wall under the “wasp hole”. I then got a pyrethrin fogger (This one fogger was a total release fogger and was rated to treat 2,500 cubic feet…overkill you might say…I think not!!) I pushed down the button on the fogger and stuck the end in the hole. I held it there for a few minutes while dodging wasps that were trying to get back in. I was desperately trying to act like I was just part of the house. As soon as I started spraying the fogger into the hole the entire wall sounded like there was an airplane taking off inside. They were not happy and I knew that as soon as that fogger ran out I had to cover the hole and seal them inside. I did just that by putting a piece of duct tape over the hole.” Phewww , thank goodness that is over” or so I thought. I walked back in the house with a look of achievement written on my face. I proudly proclaimed, “well that’s it..I got em!” There was no reply..only the sound of a snoring woman on the couch. I walked passed the coffee table with the bong and Coors Light can pyramid and said “ok, I think we got them”… I still didn’t hear any response. I decided to check the bedroom with the tape. As I opened the door, I saw the customer sitting in the corner by himself. He was just looking at the wall. He pointed and said, “Hey dude, you pissed them off, they are almost through the tape and I am too scared to move”. I looked at the wall and there were hundreds of sets of pinchers coming through the sheetrock paper around the tape. I wasn’t ready for this at all. I told the guy to leave the room in case they broke through. I then suggested he go sit by his wife. He left after a minute and I was by myself with a massive wasp nest that was essentially on the other side of a paper wall and some clear tape. A moment of clarity then came over me! In training I was given some little straws that go on the end of the pesticide cans for treating in cracks and crevices or in WALLS. I poked small holes in the wall at 6” increments and sprayed inside of the wall. The sound that came from the wall was insane. The man in the other room could hear the hum of the wasps. ”That don’t sound right dude, that don’t sound right at all”, he said loudly (wife was still snoring). Once all the holes were treated I left the room so that the wasps could die and the customer didn’t worry so much. After an hour of listening to his wife snore and watching him take hits from his bong I decided to go back in and listen. If there was no sound, I was going to cut out the sheetrock and remove the dead wasps and paper nest. The man told me I could cut anything I wanted since he was a sheetrock worker. There was no life left in that wall. I knocked on it for a good ten minutes. Not one sounds occurred so I began cutting. I cut the entire piece of sheetrock out from the ceiling to the floor and was shocked at the size of the nest. The wasps had eaten the sheetrock down to the paper and the insulation in the wall to make room for the massive paper nest. When the sheet rock came down so did thousands of Yellow Jackets. Every year Yellow Jackets colonies get another queen and will stay in the same nest. This means a Yellow Jacket nest can have multiple queens. I found 15 queens and thousands of worker wasps. The smell of the chemical pheromone was very potent. It smelled like burnt toast almost and quickly filled the room. If this customer would have leaned on the wall it would have collapsed and the wasps would have certainly killed him or his wife or both.
Upon leaving the customers house he thanked me for my service and offered me some “herbal enlightenment” which I respectfully declined of course. Then his wife came outside and said “are you going to do anything about those damn wasps?” I looked at the guy and smiled as he looked at his wife and said “go back to sleep honey”. Not too bad for my first job!