No, not the film with the divine Paul Newman and the almost equally divine Robert Redford. I’m talking about the plague of wasps terrorising our area. We thought it was just around our place, but so many other people have said that they are also suffering that we have to conclude it’s more generalised.
In 13 years here, we have never experienced anything like the hordes of wasps that have suddenly appeared this August. A few days ago, we had drinks outside with friends whom we had invited for dinner. They requested red wine as an apéritif. A mistake. We spent half an hour fishing drunkenly moribund wasps out of their glasses before finally admitting defeat and going inside. At lunchtime today, we had just laid the table outside when a squadron of wasps started dive-bombing our plates. After some frenzied napkin waving, we again retreated indoors. Neither of us is particularly bothered by the odd wasp, but when they turn up en masse it’s a different matter.
Injury was added to insult this evening when, while inspecting the site of a large heap of rubble that we had removed this week, a wasp stung me, unprovoked, just below the right armpit. Not the act of a gentleman. This was my third wasp sting this summer; I’m astonished that I haven’t had more.
I have not yet found an explanation for this unwelcome invasion. I suppose that there are simply years like that. We don’t have any more fruit than usual, nor do we appear to have any wasps’ nests in the vicinity.
Last August, we had a potentially even more serious invasion. We gradually became aware that a hornets’ nest was in full development in the attic above our pigeonnier – which leads off our bedroom. Having noticed the insects from the outside flying through the open attic window, I went upstairs and gingerly raised the trapdoor a couple of inches. A continuous low buzzing and the sight of an amazing construction – the nest itself – greeted me. Undisturbed for several months, the hornets had built an incredibly complex nest, hanging from the beam, with galleries and different levels. It’s amazing (and just as well) that we were not particularly bothered by the hornets; just one or two occasionally came into our bedroom in the evening and were quickly despatched.
However, we couldn’t allow them to continue building a nest just above our heads. After some trial and error (including phoning the Mairie who hadn’t a clue about what you should do in this situation) we phoned the Fire Brigade (pompiers). They no longer deal with wasps’ or hornets’ nests themselves, since this has now been farmed out to private companies. But if you phone 18, the pompiers will put you onto an answering machine message that gives you the numbers of all the private pest control experts who deal with the problem.
Since it was August, the first four (out of six) numbers I phoned were out of action. Happily, the fifth worked and the man promised to come on a certain day to do the deed. It turned out that he came from Décazeville in the Aveyron – about 70km from us. He was very efficient, clad himself in protective clothing, went up and sprayed some noxious substance on the nest, brought it down after half an hour and showed it to us and then charged us 90€ for the privilege.
He said we wouldn’t have any further trouble with hornets up in the attic for at least a year. He’s right – we have assiduously checked every week for signs of reconstruction and they haven’t come back.
He didn’t say anything about wasps, though…
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