Look Out! A Wasp!

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the May 17, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259Everyone has their weakness. Achilles had his heel. Cleopatra had her asp. Winston Smith possessed the mortal fear of rats. Jim Stafford, well, he didn’t like spiders and snakes.

I, for one, despise wasps. It’s not that I hate them, I’m just totally afraid of the loathsome creatures. And I’m not talking about human WASPs. No. I refer solely to the insect – that silently buzzing summer pest.

I don’t recall when I first feared wasps. Certainly, I had some concern by my fourth year. During that summer, as my brother and I helped my father work on the flower garden in the backyard, we saw with horror an ugly wasp land on my father’s exposed arm.

Stunned and frozen, our three and four year old minds didn’t know what to do. Our father had not noticed the wretched insect, though it walked confidently along his busy arm. Finally, and meekly, came our sacred plea, “Daddy, there’s a wasp on your arm.” We waited mournfully, expecting our strong father to wilt when confronted with the wasp’s angry stinger.

Instead, my father looked away from the garden only for a moment. He brushed away the annoying bug as if it were a mere fly and went back to his gardening. My father, my hero…

Wasps are evil – pure evil. Their sleek black bodies and unnaturally quiet flight conjure images of advanced Nazi engineering. One look at a wasp and I see a well organized network of covert activity. With all the open mindedness of Joe McCarthy, I envision legions of dark shadowy invaders.

Unfortunately, these thoughts come from real experience, not from some deep rooted paranoia. Wasps have an awful tendency to reveal their nests. Chances are if you see a wasp, you’ve found its hive.

Luckily, our weather greatly reduces the number of active wasp months. Wasps like the hot summer climate. In Rochester, summer lasts only two weeks in either late July or early August. (More specifically, good weather appears either immediately prior to or immediately after, but never on, the date you have set for your big summer party.)

Having been blessed with an April of 80 degree days, the villainous insects have had the opportunity to rise from their dormancy and infest again. I’ve noticed wasps have a particular partiality for my front porch. The ceiling above my front door looks like wasp condo-mania. Each year I regularly exterminate the brutes. (This involves a long stick, a water hose with jet spray and several cans of Raid.)

Nothing frightens me more than to find a wasp in an unexplained location. This includes anywhere inside my house. Why, just the other day, after finishing an especially enjoyable bath, I discovered the slender silhouette of a wasp slowly crawling on the windowsill.

Needless to say, I quickly threw a towel around me and bolted out of the bathroom. Not that I panicked or anything. I did remember to shut the bathroom door behind me. After my adrenaline level returned to normal, I knew I had but one option if I ever wanted to use my bathroom again. I rolled up the evening paper and entered the latrine and pounded the life out of the dreadful insect.

Yet the death of this one wasp did not relieve me. I pondered the ominous question – How did it get inside? With more hope than logic, I pushed aside the matter as mere coincidence.

Until this past weekend. Sunday, I discovered the source of the one wasp. I first found the window screen had not been properly locked in place, leaving a large opening. Then, fear upon fear, I saw a small nest hung comfortably inside my bathroom window.

This finding unsettled me. Once again, I rushed from the room (again closing the door). Once again, when my blood settled, I knew I had no choice in my next move.

Calmly and with Clint Eastwood-like coolness, I went downstairs and put on my leather jacket and ski gloves. I carefully made sure the wrist seal of my gloves overlapped my jacket sleeve. This left no exposed skin on my arms. In fact, if I had fencing headgear, you would have easily mistaken me for a beekeeper.

Suited in my armor, I then chose my weaponry. My last can of Raid (remnants from the previous summer) stood waiting in the garage. I picked it up, only to find it nearly empty. It would have to suffice. For extra power, I grabbed Section A of Saturday’s paper and rolled it up.

Fully equipped, I turned and approached the stairs, pausing only briefly at the hallway mirror to look at myself for what might have been one final time. From my mirror, my head slowly moved to the stairs in front of me. I took a deep breath and placed my foot on the first step. I realized, deep inside, once committed, I could never turn back. I started up the stairs.

Around the banister, across the hallway and into my room I walked. Sensitive only to my breathing pattern and what appeared directly ahead of me, I confronted the bathroom door.

Expecting hundreds of wasps buzzing in the room, I shook the can of Raid and opened the door slowly. Seeing no sign of the subversive monsters, I threw the door wide open, squatted in firing position and launched salvo upon salvo of chemical death at the silent hive.

Having paralyzed the nest’s inhabitants, I quickly, yet methodically, removed the poisoned screen and threw it in the bathtub. Then, in my best Dave Winfield pose, I grabbed my roll of paper and batted the nest out of the ball park – or at least out of my bathroom.

Victorious, I swiftly shut the window, vowing never to open it again.

Last Week #59: Let’s Go Golfing! (originally published on May 10, 1990)
Next Week #61: In Praise of Honorable Men (originally published on May 24, 1990)

[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]


  1. Chris Carosa says

    Author’s Comment: Age has since softened my stand on wasps. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like them. Only now I don’t hold them out for singular revulsion. Any bug – even a harmless fly – will be greeted the same way should it buzz near me: a hurried dance of chaotic gesticulation. It’s my attempt to remove the pest from my presence in the quickest way. After all, you never know, what you think might be a harmless lady bug might really be a vile wasp.

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