Category Archives: Ecological Inn-keeping

Where Is Thy Sting?

Ecological Inn-Keeping and a War on Yellow Jackets

One of the things we pride ourselves on at Fairhaven Guesthouse is our commitment to our own ever-expanding ecological awareness.

So, when the yellow jackets arrived, we knew we wanted to find a least-toxic approach to “controlling” them.

Now, we’ve lived here for over 10 years. Why this is the year that our yellow and black friends decided to move in, we have no idea. We’ve had paper wasps, of course, but not until now did any other stinging insect homestead on our property.

Or maybe other members of the family are better neighbors.

Yellow jacket nest
These guys do NOT make good neighbors
The first yellow jacket clan announced themselves while I was mowing the front lawn. Nothing subtle, no warning buzz-by, they went straight for my ankle. I’ve been stung a dozen times over the years, and nothing’s hurt as much as these guys. Other than the shrieking and running around, kicking off shoes and socks as I leaped about, I think I handled it rather stoically.

The second, even worse, chose to assault one of our guests. Unacceptable.

Styling in my Anti-Yellow Jacket Jacket
Styling in my Anti-Yellow Jacket Jacket
Flame and I don’t like needless killing, even of insects. When possible, we relocate, or use natural repellents. But there are limits. When a ground hog first started devastating our garden, Flame began looking up recipes (fear not, we relocated the varmint). And we’ve sent many, many mosquitoes off to whatever afterlife they qualify for (a tip of the hat to Cher, where-ever she is, who always said “Go to the light!” before swatting one, trying to balance her Karmic debt). And running an inn, we just can’t have these squatters terrorize our guests. So we searched for low-toxic methods, and found several suggestions. The LEAST toxic method was brilliant in its simplicity – just cover the entrance with a glass bowl. Yellow jackets will keep flying into the glass, trying to get through, and the nest will starve (not humane, admittedly, but it uses no chemicals).

Great in theory, but on anything other than super-flat, loamy soil, it’s hard to get the bowl snug over the nest. It took several nights (IMPORTANT TIP, only approach the nest at night! And dress appropriately!) and several variations to get it right. The bowl needed to be edged by soil to seal them in. Otherwise, a few figured out how to get out, and kept the rest fed.

Mesh with tire, seemed good, but they crawled under the tire
First tried mesh with tire, seemed good, but they crawled under the tire.
Metal with stones, better, but still they crawled out under the edges
Metal with stones, better, but still they crawled out under the edges.
Goldilocks! Glass baking dish with soil pressed around the edges.
Goldilocks! Glass baking dish with soil pressed around the edges. No escapees.

The article we read suggested this method would take 2 days. For us, after 2 weeks, they seem to be gone. Another week to be sure, and I’ll stop pulling my socks over my pants again.