Country Living Series

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Wasp control that WORKS

A few days ago I put up a post about the horrifically bad wasp year we're having. Outdoor activities had to be suspended except before dawn or after dark because of how many stinging insects were swarming the area.

We're not alone -- everyone we know is experiencing similar issues. Recently Don was in a hardware store, and he noticed they had shelves and shelves of wasp traps for people desperate to control them.

Wasps in this volume aren't just annoying, they're dangerous -- particularly for people who have reactions to stings. Everyone felt they were being held hostage indoors. Nearly every day, we would set a trap and it would fill almost to the brim. Every. Single. Day.

Then a commenter named "MissV" (and possibly a second commenter, Anon5:29) posted a sure-fire method of killing wasps using fibronil, the active ingredient in Frontline (and knock-off brands) tick repellent for dogs. We just happened to have some (since Mr. Darcy was getting ticks up the whazoo this summer), so we decided to give this a go. This is what is being passed around on Google:
Fipronil is a broad-spectrum insecticide that disrupts the insect’s central nervous system. Fipronil is the main ingredient in Frontline and other flea and tick killer used on dogs. Recall that Frontline is placed on the dogs back at the withers and keeps the dog free of these pests. It is not harmful to pets or humans in the dosage of casual contact. It will kill other yellow jackets that come into contact with it as it dies in the nest.

Several of the flea and tick killers available at your pet store or at Big R (Petco, etc.) contain Fipronil. But be careful to get the product that contains only Fipronil as its active ingredient. When Fipronil is coupled with other ingredients, the wasps will ignore it.

Mix 6 to 10 drops into a golf ball sized gob of raw hamburger (if you macerate it in a blender it works better). Place this gob of poisoned meat into a small plastic cup. Add 1/2 of a cotton ball on which you squirt half the contents of a tube of RESCUE Yellowjacket Attractant found at most hardware stores. Place the poison bait cup in the shade 2 to 4 feet off the ground and 10 to 15 yards away from doors, patios, grills – people trafficked areas. 80% of the Yellowjacket nests within 100 yards will be dead within 24 hours. 95% will be gone in 48 hours. Renew the bait every day (Yellowjackets don’t like dried or rotting meat). After 4 days 100% of the Yellowjacket nests within 400 sq. yds. will be dead. Repeat baiting after 4 weeks for a few days. It should end your problem.

As a monitor on the success of the project this person kept one of the Rescue Yellowjacket Traps in the yard and dumped it every night to check on the quantity of wasps in the area each day. The count dropped from several hundred/day to 2-4 wasps/day in 2 days and in the forth day, there were none.

1. Use only Fipronil – no other active ingredient. It’s found in flea and tick killers.

2. Mix 0.1% with hamburger. 6 to 10 drops per golf ball sized gob. Macerated burger is better.

3. Add Rescue Attractant

4. Renew bait daily.

5. Continue use for 4 days.

6. Repeat after a month for a few days.

We decided to give this a try and set two traps. We started with two golf-ball sized balls of ground beef...

...and four small paper cups.

In two of the cups, we punched holes in the bottoms.

Then we got two cotton balls.

We already had on hand Rescue wasp attractant and Frontline Plus tick repellent.

We put the cotton balls in the bottoms of the paper cups that did NOT have holes punched in them...

...and added wasp attractant to the cotton.

Then we loosely fitted the paper cups with the perforated bottoms over the other cups.

Next we took the ground beef and mashed it up a bit more in a food chopper.

To this meat, Don added 16 drops of the fipronil tick repellent. Each meatball needs about eight drops of poison (I gather too much isn't good) and since we had two meatball's worth of ground beef, he added 16 drops.

Then I donned latex gloves (just in case) and mashed the meat and poison over and over and over.

Then we re-formed the meat into two meatballs and put them in the upper cups (the ones with the perforated bottoms). We put these in jars, capped them, and put them in the fridge overnight. You never want to put wasp attractant out during daylight hours -- the stuff works instantly -- so we stuck it in the fridge overnight so the meat wouldn't go bad.

Early the next morning (well before sunrise), I removed the lids and put the jars in two locations, where doggies couldn't go. Both locations were in the shade so the meat wouldn't dry out too fast. One I put in the orchard, and the other I duct-taped to a small tree trunk along our driveway. In neither location were congregating wasps likely to bother anyone.

At first nothing happened. I think the chilled wasp attractant wasn't doing its job until it had a chance to unchill. But within a couple of hours -- my goodness -- the bait was swarming with wasps.

All day long the wasps carried snippets of poisoned meat back to their nests.

By the next morning, the volume of meat was reduced by more than half, and there were some dead wasps in the jar.

I checked on some nearby nests and noticed the insects looked very lethargic. They weren't moving much, and certainly weren't flying around.

As the day progressed, the lack of wasps was extremely noticeable. There were a few, yes; but we estimate the quantity was down by 95 percent or more. To test this, Don baited a trap in the morning and set it out. by afternoon, it had caught maybe five wasps. Remember, previously this trip would be full to the brim.

The difference outside is staggering. We can walk around without a problem. The tension is gone -- I didn't realize how tense we were until the threat was removed.

We still have some wasps, so we're going to repeat this procedure a second time, and possibly a third if needed.

This works, folks! If you're plagued by wasps, I urge you to try this to control them.

And the nicest part of all? It doesn't bother honeybees, which don't eat meat and aren't attracted to wasp attractant.

Hay day

We have a neighbor who keeps both horses and cattle, and at this time of year he's always on the lookout for Good Deals in hay. He's one of those people who simply knows everyone, and so Good Deals are likely to come down through the grapevine to him before almost anyone else. Such was the case this year when he scored round bales of bluegrass for $55/ton, an incredible price.

We just sold off two six-month-old calves, so we're down the seven animals we'll be over-wintering. In years past we've had as many as 23 animals (way too many for our acreage) and needed a proportionately high amount of hay, but this year we won't need nearly as much. In fact we have several tons of leftover hay in the barn -- it will be fine for another year of feeding -- and just wanted to supplement our supply with another three tons or so. Our neighbor, who was engaged in hauling hay for his own animals, agreed to haul three extra tons for us as well.

He pulled in yesterday with his gooseneck trailer loaded up. This fellow is a former long-haul trucker and we have never, but never, seen anyone more talented in backing trailers and maneuvering huge rigs in tight spaces.

These bales are comparatively lightweight at about 800 lbs. each. Don shoved most of them off the flatbed with the tractor.

The last few bales were too far over for Don to reach with the tractor bucket, so the three of us -- Don, myself, and our neighbor -- climbed onto the flatbed where we heaved-to and rolled the remaining bales onto the ground.

We have some cleanup work to do in the barn before we can put these round bales under cover, but rain is not expected anytime soon so they'll do just fine waiting outside until then.

And meanwhile, it's an awfully nice feeling to have our winter feed taken care of, thanks to our neighbor's help.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Baaaaaad wasp year

We are having a very very VERY bad summer of wasps and hornets.

Wasps are stinkin' everywhere. It's impossible to step foot outdoors without having these nasty hymenoptera hovering around, making outdoor work impossible. Don tried to do a wiring job on a small trailer the other day and got driven indoors within minutes. I've been getting bombed while taking Mr. Darcy for his afternoon walk. I can't water the garden except in the very early morning otherwise I'm too harassed by the wasps or hornets.

Early one morning I was out in the garden, idly watching the cows who were grazing outside the fence where we have some extra tractor tires stacked and waiting to use as garden beds. Suddenly one of the cows snorted, shook her head, swished her tail with agitation, and moved away from one of the tires. A closer inspection revealed a massive paper-wasp nest within. We're talking massive. Oh great.

And this is just one of several known nests. Some are small, and some are underground, but they all contribute to the sense of walking on eggshells whenever we set foot outdoors.

We've set endless traps and caught thousands of wasps, but it barely makes a dent in the population.

I'm most bitter about my watermelons, which were developing absolutely beautifully until the wasps discovered them. Now every single melon is being systematically hollowed out by seething masses of wasps.

The other day Don had some tractor work to do, clearing brush from a spot, which he did early in the morning to minimize wasp activity. He had to spray out a wasp nest that had formed inside one of the tractor implements. Then -- I'm not kidding -- he donned a full bee suit with zippered veil to work on the tractor. If he'd uncovered a nest while working on the tractor, he would have been severely stung without the bee suit. As it turns out he did NOT uncover a nest, but as we joked later, if he HADN'T been wearing the bee suit, he'd have found five.

So it's that kind of summer. Miraculously, though we've been bitten several times by irascible insects, we haven't been stung (at least, not since Don got one nasty sting back in June while on the tractor). Knock on wood that track record continues.

We need a good hard freeze or three to kill all these nasties off. However since that would also kill off the garden just as it's maturing, I guess we'll have to be patient and keep dodging.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Co-mother hens

If you remember, about three weeks ago we had a Jersey Giant hen who stole a nest and hatched out eight chicks.

We also had a Buff hen setting on eggs as well.

Well, the Buff hatched out five chicks, so combined we have 13 peeping babies.

The funny thing is this: For the first 10 days or so, I kept both hens and all the chicks in an inner pen in the coop, for protection. After that we opened the pen door and let everybody venture out. But by that time, the chicks were making absolutely no distinction between hens regarding who their mama is. Essentially we have co-mother hens.

Sometimes I see the Jersey Giant hen with some of the chicks:

Other times the Buff seems to collect more:

At night the chicks will tuck themselves under whatever hen has room.

This unusual co-parenting arrangement seems to be working just fine for the chicks. There's always someone to hang with and show them the ropes of searching for food.

Oddly enough, the Buff mother is dominant over the Jersey Giant mother and likes the chicks to be with her. Notice who has all the babies?

And notice who's standing off by herself, watching her family gather around the other mother?

Still, I don't feel too sorry for the Jersey Giant mama. She gets her share. Besides, it's the chicks themselves who make the decision which hen to go to.

It's amazing how much a batch of chicks -- hatched by a hen rather than an incubator -- makes a barnyard seem more alive and "proper."

So the babies are thriving as they flow between one mother or the other, and we have two very happy hens co-parenting the chicks. Whatever works, I guess.