Friday, August 9, 2013

A Wasp's Tale

Cicada Killer Wasps in my daughter's front garden.
Cicada Killer Wasps are large and impossible to get rid of once they burrow into your lawn or garden. My daughter has them all over her front lawn. My grandson Josh enjoys telling how the wasps search out and kill cicadas, bring them to their nests, then birth more wasps, which is an ugly story. The infestation prevents him from mowing the front lawn, which is not a bad thing, he says with a smile. He knows they seldom sting, but they are annoying.

My daughter, like the persistent homeowner before her, has tried everything to get rid of them, from using environmentally safe bug spray to poisonous bug spray, motor oil and ammonia. It's vicious. Her neighbors watch her with amusement, as they watched the previous owner fruitlessly trying to destroy the nests.  It's the Cicada wasps favorite place on the whole block. My grandkids and their friends have taken to swatting them with tennis rackets, to the enjoyment of residents up and down the street. But it's only temporary.

Everything is only temporary.  As the the wasps swirl around her, Michelle stands in frustration, mumbling that there must be a way.  How can every effort to stop them fail?  She's researched the subject online. This has been going on for at least 2 summers now, the July/August infestation without end.

Quite by accident, a serendipitous moment, I think maybe I stumbled across a solution.

Michelle's neighbors, the owners of the venerable Hudson Gallery on Main Street, representing wonderful contemporary artists in all mediums, have watched her front lawn problems for a long time. Scott and his wife Barbara laughed when I went in to look at art the other day, which is so glorious, diverse and absorbing, and ended up talking about cicada killer wasps.

"We think it's the heat," Scott said.  "That side of the street faces due West and gets full afternoon sun, sun most of the day.  It's warm, and the cicada wasps love it."  They also informed me that the city at some point came through the area and took down all  the old trees.  That's probably when the problem started. It's not so bad on their side of the street, which has more shade. So that's their theory, from art lovers who are highly observant, and it's the best one I've heard yet.

"You need some good shade trees!"  Cut out the sun and warmth.  Ratchet up the shade. "Maybe a big maple," Scott suggested. Maybe one on each side of the front lawn, I thought. This approach might take a few years to stop those wasps, but it might be the only answer.

I told my daughter about this serendipitous exchange as soon as she got back from a family vacation, and was greeted by the still-swarming Cicada killer wasps.  "Worth a try," she said, as she swatted a few away, "but where do I get a large-enough shade trees to make a difference, and that won't break the bank?"

She'll figure it out, but in the meantime I think we see some light at the end of the wasp tunnel.  More suggestions welcomed!

On the Hudson Gallery:
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