Hornet Wars


We have been unable to use our basement door for the past week.

Ground hornets aren’t new to our world. We usually find them the hard way — we are mowing or walking; transplanting or gardening and suddenly, the sharp, electric sting (often more than one) gets our attention right smartly, and we drop whatever tool or equipment we’re using and simply run, slapping the parts of our bodies under attack. Sometimes it is our dogs that are unlucky, and we note the spot they’re running from, flapping their ears insanely, and rubbing their bodies on the ground in an apparently suicidal, fit-like frenzy. We see a cloud of insects madly circling above a spot on the ground, and stay away.

September is the worst time. Possibly, the hornet nest has grown enough by autumn to have an aggressive supply of defenders. It might also be that they realize the time for their activity is short, and they’re simply ramped up to gather/produce more and more food and housing materials for the nest before hibernation (or whatever scientists call the dormant period for hornets). At this time of year, the skunks are our friends, because they come in the night, dig up the ground hornet nests, and eat everything they can find.

So, when we returned from vacation, we were surprised (but luckily, not the hard way) by noting quite a lot of activity in an old, unused compost tumbler that has resided for years and years beside our basement door. The last time we tried to tumble a combination of leaves and grass and other kitchen waste — I guess it was a year ago when we realized that the metal of the rolling container was rusting through. We didn’t really want to replace the failing panel, so the compost we’d begun to make inside just sat there. It transitioned from “fast” compost to a more traditional process.

Sometime during this slow working process, the ground hornets decided that living above the ground would be a safe neighborhood to raise their kin. The “door” of the tumbler was loosely attached, and the bees entered and exited through the rust holes, which have been aimed at the sky since we’ve neglected the machine.

With the cooling night temps and the shortening days, they, predictably, have become more aggressive. If we used the basement door — which we do a lot for chores, bicycling, and falconry — we took our lives in our hands.

Thus the war begins. We are not a household that typically uses poisons in our environment. And, we would like to use the compost in the spring for growing our food. So wasp spray is not an option.

Jack’s night maneuvers began with — well, tumbling. The crank doesn’t move the tub very far, so he’d whip a few revolutions to the drum and run back inside. Watching from the safety of the basement door’s glass with the light on, he was “attacked” by the insects, which hit the window in a futile attempt to follow the light and punish the offender.

The rising sun’s warmth would ignite furious activity, but we could see that one tumbling didn’t finish them. Stubborn hornets. Two more night-crank actions dumped the nest on the ground below the tumbler.

At this point, they were really mad.

And the attacking army (us) had to develop a different strategy.

The following several nights had Jack boiling water right before taking the dogs out (the front door, rather than the usual path past the tumbler) to their nighttime pen. Once the dogs were safely contained, he’d take the boiling water and dump it on the nest, in pieces on the ground .

That got their attention, but continues to have little effect, except maybe to kill the one or two that hits the basement door window in a suicide mission.

By now, contrary to traditional opinion, we are hoping against hope that our ally, the neighborhood skunk, will waddle past (but the dogs are just around the corner), find a tasty treat, and have at the remainder of the enemy.

It would be nice to be able to use the basement door again.

Maybe we will try an appropriately-aimed, high pressure stream of water, directed from a long series of hoses attached to reach near enough, but still keep the gunner a good distance away. Without the assistance of light, of course. Hmm. We’ll have to think about that option.


The End

Posting my last entry about our Baltic Adventure from home.

After the 12-hour train ride south from Copenhagen, we dragged our tired selves onto yet one more train ride from Munich Central out to nearby Dachau City. Our lodging for the two nights there was a lovely family-operated, cozy place run by folks who were kind enough to await our late arrival. It’s the Hotel Drei Löwen, or Hotel Three Lions, and I totally recommend it. It is nicely decorated, too, and offers an enormous aquarium in the breakfast room, plus a cocktail bar.

Our first night, we ate at an excellent Greek restaurant called Santorin — ate extremely well, I must say. It is not often that a restaurant serves up more food than Jack and I can eat, but this one did. Possibly, the fact that it was about ten o’clock at night had something to do with it, but we ate until we were stuffed anyway, and still had to apologize for sending food back to the kitchen.

Dachau is far more than the concentration camp memorial. It is a quite lovely, very Bavarian mid-sized city with a thriving arts scene and an old town to visit. We even walked past a gay bar on our wanderings. We were unable to do the actual city its deserved justice on our short visit, and it is definitely one of the places we have put on our “do-over” (or “more”) list.

After our full day at the memorial and museum, we had another splendid meal at an excellent Italian restaurant, so the eatings in the city are worth the visit, also. We tried to find the Bavarian restaurant our hosts recommended, but either we misunderstood or it was closed the nights we were there. So no schnitzel while we were in Bavaria, I’m sorry to report.






It was rainy for the entirety of our visit, so I don’t have many photos outside of the memorial. The weather was totally appropriate for our primary goal in our side-trip to Dachau, which, of course, was to visit the memorial itself.


The Dachau Memorial is a really great exhibit, even if the subject matter is difficult and troubling. Everyone should visit this place because there is much to be learned that did not make it into the history books. The organizers have done a wonderful job of making it accessible, with tons and tons of period photographs and documents preserved, presented, and explained. The audio guide offers loads of reference points and you can call up oral history remembrances of certain aspects of the camp’s routines, people, facilities, history, and culture, recorded from survivors of all nations and heritages. It is definitely worth the 3.50 Euros to get the guide.

There are at least 5 of the original buildings to be walked through, and the gate house and watch towers are all in their original positions. Exterior to the memorial grounds are buildings that were used by the SS then, and are now being used today, but are not part of the exhibits. The enormous museum, which begins its exhaustive exhibits with an entire room of information that goes a very long way toward explaining how fascism was able to gain a significant foothold in Germany after WWI, is enough of a destination that it should probably be a stand-alone exploration, while the camp itself (which is enormous) could use up an entire day itself. If time is tight, it was for us, the entirety can be done in a very long day (we were there for about 5-6 hours). It is a must for any European history buff.

There are several faith-based memorials on the grounds placed since the camp has been converted into a historical exhibit, and they are interesting and lovely in and of themselves. Other memorials (to the liberators; to the unknown/unnamed dead; to the survivors; etc.) reside in the camp, all of which encourage us all to remember, and to learn.

In case the subject matter is NOT something you would want to explore further, I have decided to hyperlink the photos I took with the iPhone, rather than directly upload them here. So, if you ARE interested in seeing a sampling of what I saw, feel free to check them out HERE.

Because we expected more rain on the 20-minute walk to the rail station, and because of our uncertainties regarding finding the linking train from Munich Central to the airport (that walking and training choice would have forced us to begin our travels some hour-and-a-half earlier than we did), we caught a cab at 7:30AM, and in 20 minutes, began the check-in process for our flight home. As it turned out, we left before any rain began, but I’m glad we spent the 50 Euros for the cab anyway, as our total travel time to get home was 21 hours as it was (including a 4-hour layover in Atlanta).

Munich Airport Blue Skies

We rolled into the driveway from the Greensboro Airport at about midnight EST. Stef has kept the home fires warm and the critters happy, and all is well with the world, as we try to re-integrate into our “normal” lives.

Next stop: Falconry Season!

Thanks for listening.