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Steve Bartlett: Don’t try this at home

German yellowjacket
German yellowjacket

The nest under the eave of my shed was ginormous, and I made the mistake of googling “How many wasps in a nest?”

Steve Bartlett: The Deep End

“A large nest can be home to 600,000,000.3 wasps,” the search result read. “That army is preparing to attack you. Move to another hemisphere immediately.”

OK, the warning wasn’t that dire but it did offer a reminder of how wasps can get aggressive if disturbed.

Oh, I’ve been there.

A few years ago, during a wooded walk to a swimming hole on summer vacation, my son disturbed a nest, and a swarm got up under my trunks and held StingFest 2015.

If a Steve screams in the forest, does anybody hear? All residents and in-shore mariners along Canada’s east coast did that day.

I got stung on the butt multiple times and the experience didn’t sit well for a couple of days, which probably explains why I absolutely dreaded tackling the nest on the shed.

But it hovered over an area where my kids play, and wasps were flying out of it whenever someone walked past.

It simply had to go.

To do the job, I donned full wasp warrior armour — snow pants, leather motorcycle gloves and a black hoodie.

 “Robbing a convenience store today, Steve?” the neighbours might ask.

“No,” I would tell them in a confident, quiet Clint Eastwood-like voice, “I’m going to make someone’s day.”

Eastwood’s Dirty Harry had a Smith and Wesson. I had my daughter’s TimBits mini-soccer ball.

I threw it at the shed roof three times to gauge how the wasps responded to a threat, and to get an idea how many might be inside.

They reacted with vigour — all 140,000 of them!

Clearly outnumbered, I pondered knocking the nest down with a hockey stick … and then dozens (or more) of them flying under my hoodie, stinging my neck and bald spot repeatedly.

“Hey Steve,” the curious would whisper if that happened. “Are those little follicles? Are you getting a hair transplant?

“No,” I would reply with defeat. “Those are wasp stingers that got stuck. It’s ahhh … How’s Mildred anyway?”

I wondered how to keep the wasps from swarming and stinging, and was quite proud with my decision — to turn on the hose and put the nozzle on spray!

I tested this common garden weaponry by throwing the TimBits ball at the shed and spraying the wasps that came out.

The water muted their attack, so I kept spraying and spraying, approaching the nest until directly under it.

Countless wasps flew out into the spray and retreated from my shed.

I continued hosing until they had all fled.

Turning off the nozzle, I stood, soaking wet but relieved, staring at the empty nest.

No more imminent threat to passersby, to my kids, their friends and my wahzoo.

I found myself really wrestling with the concept of the empty nest though.

Some day my kids will leave and that will sting more than any wasp ever could.

Steve Bartlett is an editor with SaltWire Network. He dives in the Deep End Monday to escape reality and European earwigs. Reach him at

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