Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This Post Is About Wasps.

Lots and lots of wasps.

I mentioned awhile ago that we have been battling a bit of a wasp infestation problem in our apartment. Most who know me probably know that I am rather bug phobic, so this has been quite unpleasant. And I'm still not entirely sure it has been resolved.

It all started one weekend a few months ago, when we returned from a morning outing and were relaxing in the living room. All of a sudden Eric stood up and suggested I take Ellie to play in her room. I recognized the "I'm about to kill a big bug that will give you nightmares" code, so I quickly escorted Ellie out and let him do his thing. Apparently the bug in question was a rather large wasp happily perched behind me. But it didn't end there, not even on that day. Three more of said wasp's friends came to check on his whereabouts as the afternoon progressed. So, great. Four wasps in our living room in one afternoon. They were doing their best to let us know right up front that this was not a fluke or a coincidence. We had a wasp problem.

The trouble was, we had no idea where they were coming from. Because that first wasp encounter happened on a rather warm day, the first day in which we turned on our air conditioning in a while, we thought maybe we had wasps in our air vents. However, as the wasps kept appearing afternoon after afternoon, regardless of the A/C status, that theory was quickly refuted.

For weeks (possibly months, I can't remember), we regularly had wasps in our living room. They seemed to only show up between noon and 4:00, and there were more of them on days when it was warm outside but cool in the house. I started leaving our sliding doors to our porch open all afternoon in the hopes that any wasps that showed up would be enticed "outdoors" and then I could lock them on the porch until Eric could get home to kill them.

We realized they were primarily all showing up in the same general area: by the sliding door in the corner, where we have Ellie's living room toys generally and our Christmas tree over the holidays (both exactly the kind of areas where you want wasps to swarm, am I right?). We developed a theory that they must be coming from our fireplace and then heading straight out towards the light, as we couldn't see any other way they could be getting into that corner.

However, we never actually saw one appear. Just all of a sudden we would look over and there would be one by the door. We never heard them buzzing around behind the fireplace screen or actually saw any emerge from there. It was just our best guess.

Of course, I called pest control immediately. Several times, in fact. But, without knowing exactly where they were coming from, there was really not much to be done. The pest control guy would go outside and find a nest and spray it, and we would hope that was it, but then we'd be right back to killing wasps.

I was starting to lose my mind. I had to get over my fear of killing them myself, because otherwise Ellie and I would've had to live in her bedroom with the door shut until Eric got home every day. Eric bought me some wasp spray and I sprayed the daylights out of those pests. Luckily, although they were enormous (I described more than one as being the size of a small bird, and I was not entirely exaggerating), they were not aggressive and were pretty slow-moving. I wondered if perhaps their journey into our home was a hard one and they were pretty spent by the time they got here. Easy prey!

But despite my newfound identity as Wasp Slayer, our infestation started to take an emotional toll. I had nightmares about wasps. I would constantly think I was hearing them. I wouldn't let Ellie play in the living room for fear she'd find one before I did. I didn't want to sit at my computer and blog/work during the afternoons because I was constantly looking over my shoulder for more wasps.

After another particularly wasp-filled day, I called pest control again. The lady who answered the phone in the office said, "well, they can't get there till Monday. Can you wait?" This was a Wednesday. I said, "I have multiple wasps in my house every day and I have a dog and a toddler who wants to 'hug the bees.'" Her response: "Yikes! Be careful then!" Great.

On Monday, pest control was due to come, and not a moment too soon. I  had killed five wasps just during Ellie's lunch time and I was about to lose it. But then, I caught a break: I managed to spot a wasp on the baseboard underneath our fireplace. Upon further inspection (after killing it, of course), I realized that there was an entire chunk of the baseboard missing. WE FOUND WHERE THEY WERE COMING FROM.

As if on cue, pest control showed up and I pointed out the broken baseboard. He got down on his hands and knees and sprayed wasp spray into the hole. Within moments, we heard buzzing. And then, out came a dying wasp. Location confirmed! Pest control guy sprayed a little more then said he would send maintenance to patch the hole and help him figure out where exactly the nest might be. Finally, progress!

But, the pest control guy kicked the hornet's nest, so to speak. That one dying wasp that buzzed its way out of the hole was soon joined by nearly forty others. Most dying, some still alive. Let me repeat: FORTY DEAD WASPS ON OUR LIVING ROOM FLOOR. We just stopped cleaning them up for a while because they were coming too regularly.

I'm not going to torture unsuspecting victims with a picture, but if you have a morbid curiosity about what the baseboard and resulting dead wasps looked like, there's a lovely photo (one of the less wasp-y) ones here. (It may be less wasp-y but THERE ARE STILL WASPS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)

When maintenance still hadn't showed up hours later, and the wasps were still entering our living room at an alarming rate, Eric went down to our leasing office to get someone to take action. He basically had to drag a maintenance man down to our apartment himself to convince them this was an emergency. Then maintenance started talking about having to get quotes from a contractor, etc., etc., so this could take a while. Luckily, his boss apparently felt this was a problem to be handled quickly and they cut out a lot of the red tape. Within days our baseboard was patched.

We thought our problem was fixed. We did find one stray wasp flying around our living room one day, but we considered it a fluke.

Then, it was Christmas Eve and we decided to light a fire in our fireplace. Being the one of us with fireplace experience, I went ahead and opened the flue. As I pulled down on that handle and opened the hatch, a whole bunch of something rained down onto the fireplace floor. I assumed it was ash or soot, but quickly realized, NO. IT WAS MOVING. It was a pile of about 50+ wasps. Most were dead or dying, but some were still roaming around our fireplace.

(Again, curious? Photo here.)

Oh, the nightmares! The post-traumatic stress disorder! The newfound phobia of fireplace flues! A month later I can still hear and feel the cascade of wasp carcasses raining down at my fingertips. Oh, how I shudder. And gag. HORRIFYING.

Needless to say, we closed that flue right back up. We have reopened it once since, and only four wasps came down. We have also found one more live one flying around our living room. So, I still don't know where we stand.

Our next step is to contact maintenance to make sure they did finally get with pest control to really knock out the source of the problem. I don't know how those two live ones have ended up in our apartment since the hole has been patched. I don't know how spraying wasp spray in a hole underneath the fireplace resulted in piles of dead wasps on top of the flue hatch. Frankly, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW.


This is the stuff nightmares are made of, people. You know where you don't have this kind of issue? In New York City. Nobody has a fireplace full of wasps in the Big Apple, my friends. In fact, our entire time in both D.C. and NYC, we never had any sort of bug problem. Since living here for five months, we've battled an assortment of widow spiders, cockroaches, WASPS UPON WASPS, and an epic flea infestation (thanks, Achilles!). Oh, how I yearn for the concrete jungle.

Between my post-traumatic wasp stress and my over-awareness of every single nauseating smell in this apartment thanks to pregnancy, I'm pretty sure this apartment is ruined. We have to move.


Lauren said...

Ick that sounds crazy I would be frustrated too I hate wasps :/ Sorry friend!

Mindy Dawson said...

It's bad enough there's one wasp, but he had to bring his other friends too! The pest control guys could've done a better sweep in their first few visits, but I guess they didn't expect it to come from inside the house. I hope that ends your wasps upon wasps of troubles, and that you finally were able to get rid of them!

Mindy Dawson @ Cooper Pest Solutions

Alta Peng said...

It's never a fun experience to have an angry wasp in the room -- but you had like a whole hoard inside your house, which I believe is quite horrifying. It's too bad that you’re thinking about moving out, just because of them. Have you consulted with pest removal experts about the issue? But if it is what’s best for you guys, then it’s the right thing to do. Thanks for sharing this experience with us, Meghan. Take care!

Alta Peng @ Liberty Pest Management INC