You can always tell those empty-nesters. Without the worries of taking care of the youngsters, they’re ready to go out on the town. You can find them hanging around picnic tables, slurping up sugary drinks and wine, flitting into your kitchen looking to share a meal, and interrupting conversations while offering their sometimes stinging opinions. They can become a real pest.
Yes, I’m talking about those annoying yellowjacket wasps that are at their peskiest in the late summer and fall. There are no more developing larvae to feed, so workers are foraging randomly for themselves.
Yellowjackets are sometimes mistaken for bees, but they’re really wasps with very distinct yellow and black markings. They are predatory social-living wasps and, like other wasps, make a paper nest, usually underground in stump holes or under shrubs. They will use sheltered areas like old buildings, barns and hollow trees.
They also have a propensity of finding the smallest opening to get into your home, causing havoc around the dining room table or any sunlit window.
They can become increasingly aggressive in gathering food and are more likely to sting during this time. Also in the fall, their food interests switch from proteins to sweets. You’ll find them eating fallen fruit, crawling into your soda can and invading your ice tea and wine. That can lead to a rather nasty, unintentional kiss.
To avoid a sting, pour drinks into a glass so that you can spot an intruder before the drink touches your lips. It’s also a good idea to avoid a wild swat, since a miss can result in a defensive move on their part.
Whenever possible, leave yellowjacket nests alone and let them continue to prey on pest insects; the ensuing cold weather will cause the colony to die off. However, if the nest is in a well-traveled area and poses a risk, you may need to take action.
The easiest and safest option is to hire a professional and the Hancock County area has many who can help you take some of that busy buzzing out of your life.
If you’re determined to do it yourself, know that the likelihood of getting stung is high. You can minimize the risk by applying control measures on a cool evening. The insects will be back home from the day’s foraging, and they’re more sluggish in cool temperatures. Remember that a sting can be fatal for those who suffer from an anaphylactic shock reaction to bee and wasp stings.
Even if you are stung by one of these little buzz bombs and don’t suffer from allergic reactions, it’s still going to hurt. There are commercial sting remedies available, but many swear by home remedies and concoctions applied to the sting site, including a paste of baking soda and water; meat tenderizer containing papain, such as Adolph’s; the cut side of an onion; a damp tea bag; toothpaste; and, finally, what could be better treatment for these little pains in the butt than Preparation H?
While annoying, yellowjackets aren’t our enemy when their wanderings are kept in check. It’s good to keep in mind that all wasps and bees, including yellowjackets, are beneficial through eating pest insects and/or as pollinators for fruits, flowers and farm crops of all types.
“If I be waspish, best beware my sting.” — William Shakespeare
Along the way
Like the forecasts for the weather conditions that influence the changing autumn leaves, predictions regarding the quality of autumn colors, while based on science, aren’t infallible.
The brilliance and longevity of Ohio’s fall foliage color change is based on variables such as sunlight, temperature, rainfall and wind. Bright sunny September days and cool nights tend to make red, orange and bronze leaves more vivid.
Early frosts cause trees to prematurely build an abscission layer, a barrier between the leaves and branches. This prevents carbohydrates and water from passing in and out of leaves, thus turning them earlier. Dry conditions can cause a delay in leaf color change and windstorms can quickly bring leaves down, ending the fall foliage season abruptly.
“Trees such as hickory, birch and beech are all trees that show off their carotenoids with hues of yellow, brown, and orange,” said Casey Burdick, Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ fall color forester.
Shades of red and purple are brought on by a different chemical reaction that produces a chemical called anthocyanin. To develop the deepest shades of red and purple, bright sunny days in late summer help break down the chlorophyll, causing the leaves of trees rich in sugar, including maples, oaks, sweetgums and dogwoods to show these brilliant contrasting colors.
September rains and seasonal cooldown can help enhance autumn’s display. If the weather cooperates, we should be on track for northern Ohio peaking in the first and second week of October, central Ohio peaking around the second and third weeks, and then southern Ohio peaking through the fourth week.
What makes the leaves fall from the trees? As autumn creeps its way through the countryside, sap thickens and the flow slows. While protecting the tree from freezing during winter, this thickening clogs the leaf’s veins. They become saturated with sugar created by the chlorophyll. The union between the branch and leaf seals off and the weight of the leaf, in combination with wind and rain, encourages their floating descent.
To help you enjoy the fall color that will radiate through Ohio’s 100-plus tree species, the Department of Natural Resources will post weekly updates at http://fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov.
“Leaves grow old gracefully, bring such joy in their last lingering days. How vibrant and bright is their final flurry of life.” — Karen Gibbs
• Today: Ohio State Trappers Region A meet, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186. Advanced lot numbers for all fur auctions will also be drawn at this meet. Lunch will be provided by the club for a donation. Attendance is free and open to the public.
• Today and tomorrow: Tri-State Gun Collectors show, Allen County Fairgrounds.
• Tomorrow: Sporting clays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• Monday: Women on Target, 6 p.m., HCCL, 13748 Jackson Township 168, Findlay.
• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• Hunter and trapper education class information and registration is found online at www.wildohio.gov or call 1-800-WILDLIFE.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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