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Ten tips for dealing with wasps in your barn

Ten tips for dealing with wasps in your barn

Wasp spray in bulkIt was hard to ignore the buzzing around my head as I tossed square bales from the trailer into the second story loft of our horse barn. I knew what it meant. The throbbing on the back of my neck from a wasp attack the day before made me extra sensitive to the threat. I did not want to be stung again. But if keeping me away was the intended result, the wasps in our barn were likely surprised at my response to their aggressive flybys. I walked away and a few minutes later returned with a can that would bring peace to the barn that night – at least to the humans. With it I unleashed a stream of prallethrin and cypermethrin wasp spray, enough to decimate a village of around 15 nests I had foolishly allowed to develop this spring. Enough is enough. It was time to take back the barn.

You’d think I’d learn from experience on this but it turns out a year is a long time to remember practical experience. One decision from the previous year turned out to be right, though, and I was glad for it this night. For some reason I bought a warehouse club sized pack of wasp spray which was ready for use when needed this year. It’s the kind of thing you don’t want to have to stop and drive to the store to get when those evil creatures attack. My recommendation is to have easy access to several cans of wasp spray so you can immediately fight back in anger and vengeance. Yes, let the hatred flow through you. You’ll need this kind of drive if they get wise to your plans because you have to push through and kill them all if you want to stop looking over your shoulder in the barn.

Here are some additional tips for declaring war on wasps in your barn:

  1. Buy a bunch at a warehouse club or at least grab 2-12 cans at your favorite home store. Do not allow yourself to run out. You will need it some day in a hurry! And you’ll probably need more than you think. Don’t worry, it’s cheap.
  2. Wasp spray companies have wisely figured out that you would prefer to be 1000 feet from the thing you’re trying to kill. Most cans can shoot the spray a long distance but remember that they have limited effectiveness when the can starts to get low. Don’t show up all cocky to a giant wasp nest full of the angry devils only to find your can sputtering out or you will find yourself quickly and painfully searching Google for “how to treat wasp stings.
  3. Since you may need wasp spray quickly, place cans in a few places where you know you’ll find them, like inside the door to your tack room and outside the door to your tack room and in the back pocket of your jeans. Just in case you are new to children, keep out of reach of children.
  4. Careful around pets. Our barn cats love to play with alive, dead or dying bugs. Sometimes this play involves them nibbling and we don’t want our pets eating any kind of poison. Also, warn your cats that you’re about to do something shocking or be prepared to learn what happens when cats are shocked and you’re nearby. If you opt for that learning experience, have bandages, a tourniquet, a cell phone, and a video recorder nearby.
  5. Some wasps build nests quickly, especially the mean little Napoleon buggers. They’re harder to see flying around but can sting repeatedly and fast. You should be in the habit of scanning common nest locations to see if any new ones have appeared.
  6. Speaking of which, remove old nests. It’ll make it easier to see new nests from a distance. I used to like to leave them there as a warning the future broods but it doesn’t seem to work.
  7. Spray at night. Not only will it be more fun to try and find the scary little flying poison darts in the dark, wasps don’t fly much at night so you’re likely to catch them all at home. Of course you should bring a flashlight and practice emergency retreating to avoid stepping on a rake and other Three Stooges moments.
  8. Wear gloves or at least wash your hands soon after releasing the death spray. Sure you’re not a wasp but I can’t imagine soaking up any kind of poison is good for you.
  9. Because you won’t listen to number 2, know where the benadryl cream is before starting. Let’s face it, you’re probably gonna get stung and you don’t want to spend time frantically flinging things out of your medicine cabinet afterwards while you look for it. Or worse, going to the store. The cream has helped me but some people also swear by the tablets. Whatever stops the pain and swelling.
  10. Maybe this should be number 1 but hopefully you’re still reading. Avoid wasps entirely if you have an extreme allergic reaction to their poison. Maybe carry an Epi-Pen, too. I don’t know how common this is but don’t risk your life if you’re prone to serious allergic reactions. Leave the little jerks to the professionals in this case or that friend that thinks a little pain makes them feel more alive. Tell them there is plenty of life right there in your barn.

Hopefully you’ll be able to avoid being stung this year! Good luck and feel free to share thoughts and recommendations in the comments.

July 2019 update: The exact same bottle of Spectracide wasp killer in the photo above is still available for about $3 a can (Rural King). I walked by a store display and did a double-take, recognizing it from this post. It works really well.

Wasp nest in tack

Wasp nest in tack

Wasp nestLet this be a lesson to us all. Yesterday I was stung by a wasp who unbeknown to me was busy building a nest under one of our saddle blankets. Around here, wasps are everywhere right now! At times we are afraid to go into our tackroom, which is open to the barn on the top. Someone was coming over to exercise Romeo for us and I dashed into the barn to grab the saddle blanket. I don’t recall ever being stung by a wasp but I can tell you it felt like someone had stabbed my finger. I thought I had left something sharp under there and I had cut myself on it and fully expected to see blood. Although the pain eventually dissipated, boy did it throb for a while!

A quick search of the internet revealed a way to relieve the pain. Apparently alcohol is good for bee stings and vinegar is good for wasp stings (think a-b and v-w) but not vice-versa. This seems to have worked and today I had forgotten all about it.

So just a quick note to suggest safety when pulling out tack you haven’t used in a while.

Carpenter Bees and other downsides to spring

Carpenter Bees and other downsides to spring

Spring flowers

It’s been in the 70s and low 80’s all week, a sure sign that spring is on the way. I love spring but there a few things I’m not looking forward to. The first has got to be carpenter bees. I mentioned carpenter bees last year when I noticed how much damage they were doing to our wooden barn and wood-sided house. Upon further inspection this year, we quickly realized that carpenter bees have destroyed a significant number of important beams in the old barn in the pasture. We’re going to have to replace those this year or risk losing the barn. It’s that serious. You’ll recall that carpenter bees don’t just drill large holes in wood, they burrow up to 10 feet into the wood. We treated the burrows we could reach last year with Sevin dust and sealed up a good many of them with expanding foam. Yeah, wood filler would have been better but we had a LOT of holes. The expanding foam seemed more economical.  And easier.

Walking around outside today, I can tell you I must not have made too big an impact on the carpenter bee population because they are everywhere! I’m not sure what to do about the ones in the air besides what some call “carpenter bee tennis,” but I’m back to treating the holes I can find with Sevin dust. I’m worried about places I can’t see or easily get to like 25 feet up in the rafters of the barn, under our deck or behind the wood siding of our house. Stupid carpenter bees.

Another related downside to spring is wasps. Our barn serves as an ideal wasp nest host, with crevices all over, including lots of hidden ones. Last year there were days where we just didn’t want to hang out at the barn much due to all the aggressive wasps. I made some wasp traps with nectar attractant, the kind that is easy to get into but hard to get out of, but the wasps totally ignored it. We diligently knocked down or treated wasp nests as we found them and there were no incidents with our horses. But now I’m back on wasp patrol. Any suggestions are welcome.

Flies – they’re coming soon. I’ve seen some but when you have horses, you’ll have flies and lots of them. We were successful last year with fly parasites from Arbico Organics (there are lots of companies that sell them). Have you seen these? You subscribe to a monthly service that sends fly parasite larvae. They hatch and destroy flies in some kind of gruesome way. We were skeptical but proved last year they really do work. We wrote last May about what fly treatment methods we were trying. It’s time to think about what we’re going to use this year.

Thorns and other weeds – We’re excited about the grass growing. Our horses seem seriously tired of dry hay and I don’t blame them. But the return of grass means the weeds and thorn bushes are also returning. Time to get out into the pasture to uproot the thorn vines. We also need to stay on top of keeping the pasture trimmed/bush-hogged. Apparently, if you don’t keep your grass trimmed, the weeds choke out the good stuff.

Snakes – Mikki wrote last year about a snake that visited our barn and freaked us all out. I hate snakes! They creep me out. Yes I know, they provide the valuable service of getting rid of mice and rats but I’d still rather have barn cats.

Other than those things, we’re VERY MUCH looking forward to spring. I’ll take warm weather with these downsides any day over 20 degrees and windy.