In preparation for hurricane season and winter, the electric company has hired a tree service to cut back branches from the top two wires on utility poles around town. A two-man crew was here the other day on a side street that runs parallel to our backyard. I was home, so hearing the hubbub, I went out to chat them up, offer iced water, and make sure they didn’t mangle the crown of our beloved Japanese umbrella pine. Turns out they did a very nice job, prudently selecting branches and cleaning up afterward. The fellow in the basket of the cherry-picker got a wake-up call from a nest of yellowjackets atop our crab apple tree. Impossible to see from the road, and he didn’t spot it up high until a squadron of bees emerged. He made it down with only one sting.
Out came the spray. One of our neighbors is deathly allergic to bee stings, so I was glad to see the nest’s demise.
Turns out yellowjackets aren’t bees but wasps. In the neighborhood where I grew up, kids called them yellowjacks. I didn’t experience much bee drama as a kid. The only encounter worth noting was the discovery of a giant hornet nest–about the size of a basketball–on the back of the house across the street from us. Word spread fast. All the kids gathered, and the means of destruction was settled on rather quickly: water balloons. A dozen overfilled, unstable water balloons were volleyed at once. The nest exploded in a sodden mass, and a veritable cloud of hornets flew out. Everybody got stung as we ran away and scattered, waving our arms and screaming like maniacs.