When Karen moved into her house, it was early fall. It was the first house she had ever owned. She had grown up in a city apartment in New York, and had never seen any wildlife. The wind from an August storm had blown the shingles off her newly owned back roof and there was an immediate need to re-shingle, before the next storm. She didn’t go to work the day the roofers came. A short while later, there was a sudden sound of rushing water. Looking out, she saw one man on the ladder, water poured off him and there was a swarm of very angry sounding hornets near him. Karen panicked; her mind went to all the terrible things that might happen. Would someone sue her? Was the poor man badly hurt? Might he fall off the ladder? Was this her fault, should she have known they were there? Calming down she learned that he was not badly stung and the roofers would just move the ladder to the opposite side of the house, “this was just an occupational hazard.” She remained frightened until he finished and left. A swarm of hornets was still more than Karen was prepared to deal with. Careful watching showed her that the yellow jackets had turned the space behind her siding into a hive. It took a week of tension-filled observation to locate the entrance/exit holes.
Never having lived in the country, she had no idea what someone should do to get rid of hornets that live inside siding. She spent hours on the phone, but none of her friends had suggestions, although they had lots of warnings and dire predictions about getting stung. The library was no help, there wasn’t one book on what to do about hornets in your siding; and the men at work just laughed and said, “We told you so.” Several weeks passed before anyone had a ‘helpful’ suggestion. “Wait for a cool (below 50 degree) dark evening, then sneak up on them and caulk the holes. Make sure you don’t disturb them or they’ll come swarming out straight for you.”
That Friday night was cold, so she and Sam (her boyfriend) went out the back door. They had reviewed the way they would work, several times. She held the flashlight while he put the caulk on a putty knife and used that to cover the line of siding where the hornets had been seen. As soon as the putty was in place they ran inside. She was so nervous that she forgot to light Sam’s path and he almost tripped. She didn’t care - her fear was too great. In fact, she spent the next half hour listening for the sound of angry yellow jackets.
Saturday seemed a wonderful day, there were a few hornets buzzing around, trying to find the entrance to their home, but no sign of the hundreds that were there the day before. The ones who were there didn’t seem to blame her for their missing home.
Karen was elated, this home ownership stuff was a snap. Floating through Saturday chores, she returned home to call up several of her ‘no-advice’ friends to gloat about how easy it was to solve problems around the house.
Her bubble burst the next morning when she awoke to her living room filled with swarming hornets. The front windows were covered by this yellow and black mass of bugs crawling over one another trying to get to the light. This scene had the intensity of a Kafkaesque nightmare to her. She was numb and wanted to shut her eyes, but didn’t dare. The lack of a door into the room and the presence of her cat avidly watching the noise and motion contributed to her sense of panic. Karen knew what to do if she got stung, but what if they decided to attack the cat? She had no idea how to handle that. Her stomach churned, her muscles were clenched hard enough so it hurt to lift her hand and her mind shut down – not one thought came out. She wanted to scream, but there was no one to hear it, so what would be the point. Besides, she couldn’t unclench her jaw enough to get a sound out.
The layout of the house was such that only the bedrooms and bath had doors. The living room, kitchen and breakfast room were open to each other. As Karen backed up from the living room through the kitchen into the breakfast room she left the hornets behind. Her cat, Cassandra, decided breakfast was more important than those buzzing things and came with her. Pouring a cup of coffee, Karen slumped into a chair and waited for her brain to start functioning. As if it was a mantra, her mind kept repeating, “There must be something to be done. What? There must be something to be done”, but no answers came to her.
Finally she called Sam – after all this was partly his fault – he helped cement the hornets inside the house. The call was fruitless, he promised to come over later and suggested she use hornet spray to keep them out of the rest of the house. She hated to kill any living thing, but she couldn’t find another solution, so she stood in the doorway and aimed the spray at the nearest window, ran into the bedroom and slammed the door. Her fear was that the hornets might get mad and decide to sting. She wanted to be out of the way. Every five minutes for the next three hours, Karen sprayed hornets, moving step by step into the room after each spray. Ultimately, there were no more hornets flying around and she located them coming through a tiny hole next to the radiator. Covering the space with masking tape she waited. No signs of any new yellow jackets appeared. She swept up the dead hornets from the windowsills and floor, and took them outside since they might be stunned rather than dead.
It took another few hours before she got up the courage to go downstairs to the room below the living room. That room was also swarming with insects, but there was only one window and it was easier to spray without the fear of being stung. Her knees still shook with every step she took.
A week later there was no sign of hornets near the house and life had returned to normal. But, Karen had had her first lesson on how to live in the country, NEVER close something in because it will always find a less convenient place to get out.