Excavating a wasp nest
February 10, 2016 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Wasps are a dangerous introduced pest in New Zealand. Here, a researcher excavates an active German wasp nest by hand. Thrill to the angry buzz of outraged wasps! Recoil as they hurl themselves at the camera! Goggle at the venom splatters! 10 minutes of terrifying yet compelling man on wasp action.

Make sure the sound is on for extra wasp collision noises.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen (64 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think I've ever, or will ever, have as much faith in anything as that man has in the suit he's wearing.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:19 PM on February 10, 2016 [37 favorites]

Sweet Dreams.
posted by alex_skazat at 8:19 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

In fairness to these wasps, I also tend to squirt venom when my home is destroyed by an enormous trowel.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:20 PM on February 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

Dialing 1-800-AND-NOPE.
posted by eriko at 8:20 PM on February 10, 2016 [14 favorites]

I'm wearing headphones. Jesus.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:21 PM on February 10, 2016

Holy shit. That was unnerving.
posted by dhruva at 8:22 PM on February 10, 2016

That's a whole shitload of wasps tho. I hope nobody walks past when old mate is out doing his research next time.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:22 PM on February 10, 2016

I kept waiting for him to stare hopelessly into the camera and say "I HAVE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE. TELL MY WIFE I LOVE HER."
posted by 4ster at 8:23 PM on February 10, 2016 [23 favorites]

Started so gently.. began to tickle my AMSR.. until WASPS.
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 8:23 PM on February 10, 2016

That was a strange combination of terrorizing and fascinating. Kept checking the time to see how much more. Was finally used to it when it stopped. Would have liked to see what the person in the suit did to get the wasps to not follow him all the way home.
posted by AugustWest at 8:25 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Its strangely more bearable at 2x...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:26 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Would have liked to see what the person in the suit did to get the wasps to not follow him all the way home.

It's an old ANZAC trick. Using sleight-of-hand and misdirection, what you do is rapidly exit the suit. The wasps will all immediately fly into the suit because that's where they think you still are. Then you zip the suit back up and now you have a suit full of wasps. Eventually it just walks off into the bush. Hence the common New Zealand folk tales of "buzzing astronauts".
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:26 PM on February 10, 2016 [64 favorites]

I wanna sleep nightmare-free tonight... nope, not clicking that.
posted by azpenguin at 8:27 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

The first link, from the Department of Conservation (of non-waspiness) suggests a spoonful of insecticide placed in front of the nest at night. Results: all the wasps die in a day, but you don't get any titillating video.
posted by kozad at 8:32 PM on February 10, 2016

Some friends rented a ramshackle house in college with an extensive back yard. One time we were all sitting around, watching baseball and drinking. It was a slow game, so two friends (Dylan and Bill, let's say) decided to go do some chores outside. From what we'd later learn, Bill was taking out the trash and his foot went directly through an old wooden beam that was being used to form a dirt staircase next to the defunct hot tub. The folks inside saw Bill run by the window screaming "BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES", while Dylan looked on and yelled, "Run, Bill, Run!" It turns out that Bill had discovered a nest of carpenter bees. Which I would imagine look friendly in comparison to wasps like these.
posted by codacorolla at 8:32 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

Gee, as always, I just thought this was pretty neat. I mean, it's kind of neat the way person goes about excavating the nest, and it's interesting to think about the wasps' social behavior as they defend against the invasion.
posted by teponaztli at 8:33 PM on February 10, 2016

I think the world needs to take up a collection so we can send New Zealand the thermite and/or napalm they so inexplicably lack.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:35 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

OK, it is a little terrifying.
posted by teponaztli at 8:37 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

This fellow New Zealander has taken a different approach to his invasive wasp problem. There are about fifteen parts to the video, but this one will give you the basic gist.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:37 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

That gave me a case of the heebie jeebies.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:38 PM on February 10, 2016

Anyway, if you want to consider this video from the perspective of horror, imagine that a gigantic thing a thousand times the size of you starts to uproot your city and drag it into the atmosphere. Your city tries to fight back by launching fighter planes to bomb the creature, but even the strongest missiles bounce right off of it. The creature, disturbingly, observes you and then throws your city to the ground.

This is essentially the wasp version of Independence Day.
posted by codacorolla at 8:39 PM on February 10, 2016 [23 favorites]

So you're saying they gave that researcher a cold? Dad, you're a genius!
posted by teponaztli at 8:40 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

That gave me a case of the heebie jeebies.

You mean...the waspie weeblies?
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:40 PM on February 10, 2016

I'm conflicted about this. OTOH, I feel sorry for these guys: an Attack-on-Titan-sized monster has just destroyed the home. OTOH KILL IT WITH FIRE.
posted by nushustu at 8:41 PM on February 10, 2016

You know about those ASMR videos of people whispering, papers rustling, Bob Ross painting happy trees with a brush that shushes across canvases? You know: where the sound sends that pleasing tingle up the nape of your neck and straight into your brain.

This is like that but with sounds clutching my balls and won't let go.
posted by herrdoktor at 8:41 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

There is something kind of cool and creative of this wasp removal method.
posted by 4ster at 8:46 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

The view of the hive structure is really cool, though. I've never known how underground wasp nests are organized, so I thought that was really interesting. Although I couldn't tell if the whole structure was enclosed before it was dug up, or if the rows of cells would have been open to the dirt.

Er, I'm not sure how to describe what I'm trying to ask about - is there ordinarily an outer wall to the nest that was destroyed as this one was excavated, or do the wasps just fill the cavity with as many rows as they can?
posted by teponaztli at 8:47 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

We had a yellow jacket (i.e., "German wasp") nest once next to the front door of a townhouse we were renting. It wasn't a problem for most of the summer but as we got close to September the number of wasps increased and some were getting in the townhouse through open windows.

The wasps' nest was below ground, at the foundation. I tried using a poison foam to kill them but it didn't really work. I was careful to use it at dusk when the wasps are apparently supposed to be sleeping. The foam would seal up the the whole and the wasps would *appear* to die but the next day they would be back in action, flying in and out of the burrow.

I asked the superintendent for help, and he was like, "wasps, huh? no problem." He was a big Croat who had served in the war and had been shot in the leg. He walked with a limp and talked with an accent.

He took my can of wasp spray and just walked on top of where the nest was and started to spray away. A flood of wasps came out, but he didn't pay any attention to them. When he was finished, the wasps were no more.

They're very interesting creatures. They just have one flight path they use to get in and out of the nest. If you don't stand in their way they'll never even notice you.
posted by My Dad at 9:07 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I kept ducking when they attacked the camera.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:15 PM on February 10, 2016

Watched the whole video. Buying a flamethrower now. Thanks.
posted by dazed_one at 9:23 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is clearly the best, tempered, moderate response to a wasp problem.
posted by dazed_one at 9:33 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

From the first link:
The German wasp was introduced in the 1940s and the common wasp arrived relatively recently but is now widespread.

Both species live in large colonies, about the size of a soccer ball. These colonies can become huge if they manage to survive over winter.

German wasp nests are grey. Common wasp nests are brown. The world's largest recorded wasp nest was discovered at Waimauku (near Auckland). It was 3.75 metres tall and 1.7 metres wide.
Holy shit, 15 feet tall and 5.5 feet wide????? NOOOOOOO
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:36 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

I grew up with apple trees, and we would always have yellow jackets (or something) in them every fall. You want to know the real worst thing wasps can do? They would hollow out the insides of apples to create hives, leaving only the skin. Sometimes they leave enough flesh to keep the skin firm and fresh-looking. So sometimes that big apple at the top of the tree you use the grabber to get is actually entirely full of angry wasps.
posted by neonrev at 10:56 PM on February 10, 2016 [12 favorites]

That was a fascinating video, and I watched it start to finish.

I appreciate that the suited-up person was interested in more than just eradication, but also wanted to have the nest itself.

Previously on here, I've expressed a "kill 'em all" sentiment, and have received flak for it. Understandable. But let me explain a little bit.

For whatever reason of my biology, I am remarkably insensitive to plant-based toxins. I seem to be able to rip out poison ivy with bare hands, to no ill effect. I've joked that I could roll naked in it, and perhaps I have.

But I am extremely sensitive to insects. Biting flies, mosquitoes, and the like, elicit a hyper-aggressive histamine response. Mosquito bites produce half-dollar diameter welts. A deer fly bite will give me a snack-plate sized one.

The bees and wasps get even better.

When I was about 12, there was a yellow jacket nest in an old, dying tree in our back yard. A friend and I decided to throw rocks at it. One of the yellow jackets stung me on the little finger of my left hand. Within a few hours, my arm was swollen up to the elbow. It's an interesting kind of electric pain, with a bit of a heat sensation on the side, plus an undercurrent of itch, which tends to come and go in waves.

That was the only wasp sting I ever had.

Honeybee stings seemed to occur about once a summer. I was comfortable playing next to them on the edge of our neighbors ornamental pond/fountain thing. I'd play with my little plastic boats, the bees would sip the water, and we'd warily watch each other. But I had a fondness for going barefoot, and honeybees liked to hang out in the clover. So every summer I'd step on a poor bee.

My whole foot would swell, up a little past the ankle. After the initial electric shock sting, it would settle down into a dull ache that throbbed with my heartbeat for several hours. Then, again, that wretched itching, which could last for days.

In my twenties, I had a friend who invited me to dinners, just the two of us, in his back yard by the river. It was inevitable that yellow jackets would show up. My friend encouraged me to just accept their presence. So we'd be careful about our movements, look into wine glasses before sipping, gently lift a piece of buttered bread and wave it around a bit to encourage them to fly off. This worked for me, in large part, because I trusted my friend, and I was OK with the yellow jackets (mostly). I would have been very uncomfortable, and less accommodating of them, if there were people near me who were more aggressive toward, or freaked out by, the yellow jackets.

This kind of nonchalance (even when slightly feigned) helped when I moved to Nashville. My gosh, the wide variety of wasps in Tennessee. Little black ones, big orange ones, big purple ones, medium-sized black and yellow ones, mud-daubers. Holy hell.

My first Nashville apartment, I woke up to see about a dozen big purple wasps flying around the ceiling near the light fixture. Very slowly, I slinked on to the floor and into the kitchen. Turned out there was a nest under the eaves. I waited until after dark, and used a can of wasp killer to take out the nest.

I partnered with a guy to do house painting. Somehow, it became my job to deal with wasps. I'd be the one 2 stories up on a ladder, spraying wasp killer into holes in the brick.

After my partner's truck died, and my truck died, our only option was to use my car, which had been sitting for about a year due to a bad carburetor. I opened the driver door, and a cloud of wasps surrounded me. I slowly backed away. The wasps calmed down. I pulled the lever to pop the hood, and another cloud of wasps came out from there.

Turns out there were at least two wasp nests in that car, one in the driver door, and one on the radiator. Over the course of a few careful, patient hours, I was able to remove the carburetor, all while wasps were flying around me and walking on my hands and arms. That night, I rebuilt the carburetor at my kitchen table. The next day, I re-installed the carburetor, again with the wasps present.

I didn't get stung once.

Can't really explain why they were so tolerant of me. But I didn't return the favor.

As soon as I got the car started, I drove that Lincoln as fast as the road would let me. Several miles later, I popped the hood and scraped out the wasp nests.

I'm 49 now, and I haven't been stung by a bee or wasp in at least 33 years, close as I can recall. I'd like to think that we have a sort of a truce. They have the potential to kill me, but haven't; I treat them with kindness.

But when I'm outside, I still look inside my beer bottle before bringing it to my lips.

Because wasps are mean fuckers.
posted by yesster at 11:21 PM on February 10, 2016 [21 favorites]

4ster: There is something kind of cool and creative of this wasp removal method.

That reminds me of when I was a kid and had wasps build a nest in the wall of my bedroom. We didn't figure that out until after the third time I was stung in my sleep—I think they mainly used an outside exit, and only occasionally came into the room. My dad had me hold the wand of a regular vacuum up against the crack up by the ceiling where they were coming in while he got in position to spray some wasp-killing poison into the crack and then block it up with expanding foam. That did the trick for the nest, and the vacuuming kept them from coming out and attacking us while we worked. I still remember the sound of wasps pinging off the sides of the metal tube of the vacuum wand.
posted by JiBB at 11:53 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

And then this thing I was disappointed that there were not drones, electric hot dogs or the classic Fireworks!
posted by boilermonster at 12:16 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's like Independence Day, but the aliens win. Which I guess makes it more like a Vogon fleet.

There was a moment where I thought a giant wasp had risen to defend their home, Godzilla style, but it was just standing close to the camera.
posted by biffa at 1:50 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I got through 3mins and I wanted to cry. The wasp close ups, aghhhhh!

The cat loved it.
posted by kitten magic at 3:07 AM on February 11, 2016

That was a beautiful, rather calming video to watch. All that methodical scraping and if you close your eyes it sounds just like rain.

The house I grew up in always seemed to get a wasp nest every summer until we invested in those fake nests you can hang in the trees to ward them off. One year, somehow they actually found a way into the house. I woke up one morning, early, to go play the only game of paintball I ever played, and there were at least a hundred of them (Or what seemed to me like a hundred, there were probably 50 or 60) in our kitchen. They were all tired, barely crawling around, I guess they couldn't find their way back to the nest or something. My mom is very allergic to bee and waspss so this was rather concerning. I put my shoes on, grabbed a kitchen towel, murdered every single one of them, and put them all in a little container so that my mother would believe my story.
posted by Neronomius at 3:22 AM on February 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Needs more fire.

Much more fire.

ALL of the fire.
posted by tommasz at 5:56 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I can safely say this is the first time that I've watched a video where the camera lens was blurred by drops of pure hatred.
posted by Splunge at 6:17 AM on February 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

I don't think I've ever, or will ever, have as much faith in anything as that man has in the suit he's wearing.

As a beekeeper, I've been surrounded by clouds of hundreds of thousands of very angry bees and I've never been stung through my suit. I also have a really great suit.

Having said that, wasps are assholes.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:00 AM on February 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Jesus. I didn't even watch, just reading about it has my shoulders tense.
posted by ColdOfTheIsleOfMan at 7:06 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Does anyone remember the guy who would kill fire ant nests by pouring molten aluminum down the hole? I'm thinking we should do the same thing to wasps, but use something like tungsten (melting point 3400 degrees C) or perhaps a pure superheated plasma. Like something you get in a fusion test chamber. Injected with great force, to make sure it infuses the entire hive. That way you don't have to poison the area around the nest.

I am fascinated and terrified of wasps and bees. Part of me wants to own an apiary, although if I do, I want it a minimum of 10 miles away from where I live and I cannot imagine myself going there without a suite like his. Part of me wants to get one of these suites and go after wasps nests with a flamethrower.

Maybe it's best if I don't own a suite like this.

I have no problem with stingless bees and honestly think the idea of having a hive of them would be pretty cool. In fact, with all the genetic engineering around, why haven't we created a species of stingless bee that can pollinate most of the crops and flowers we like and can survive in climates colder than subtropical? Forget everything else, we need super stingless bees.
posted by Hactar at 7:29 AM on February 11, 2016

Forget everything else, we need super stingless bees.

The last time we tried to bee god.
posted by curious nu at 7:42 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is my worst nightmare. Like, literally, I have had nightmares about this sort of thing.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:55 AM on February 11, 2016

pouring molten aluminum down the hole

Originally, it was some amazing research on how ants build nests, but originally it was done in plaster as well and the researchers could count the ants as they weren't instantly vaporized.

Also, there are stingless honey bees, native to Mexico and South America, but they tend to be very sensitive to pesticides and produce less honey than European or Africanized bees. They also tend to lose to these two other types in a competition for resources.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:05 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Them! is a great movie. I'm gonna watch Them! when I get home tonight. Die, you bastard flightless wasps.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:14 AM on February 11, 2016

Imagine you are at a Texas summer camp. Imagine you are sitting in a one-holer outhouse that is like a sauna. Imagine a huge red wasp lands on your bare thigh and starts walking around with its abdomen pulsing up and down. Imagine you sit there, sweating like a pig, for 10 or 15 minutes and the bastard doesn't leave. Imagine you are allergic to wasp and bee stings. Imagine finally the door swings open and there is a counselor who sees your predicament and removes the wasp with a quick swipe of his hand. Imagine your relief...
posted by jim in austin at 8:22 AM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have a casting furnace, and the next time I find an underground wasp nest that isn't right next to a wood-frame building, I'm planning on trying the molten aluminum thing. I'd do ants nests, but I have yet to find a decent sized one. I'd really like to do something similar with that groundhog colony out back, but that would require epic levels of molten aluminum, and a backhoe to remove it.
posted by Blackanvil at 8:34 AM on February 11, 2016

There are a ton of videos on YouTube of idiots who are doing bee cutouts without protection. In L.A. and most of the Southwest, all of our bees are Africanized. I'm not sure what their thing is - but I'm personally of the opinion that the fewer stings the better. BTW, I have an ultrabreeze suit, for anyone who cares. (I am not associated in any way with this product. I just really love their suits.)
posted by Sophie1 at 8:46 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow, I thought maybe he was mic'd up oddly and the pitter patter sounds were pebbles and trowel scraping for the initial couple of minutes. I'm surprised he didn't kill the nest off first, if they're a non-native pest.

Also to all the kill it with fire folks, look what happened when we got too gung ho with the antibiotics.
posted by lucidium at 9:55 AM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

At the end of the video, when the researcher held up the nest to the camera and there were all those rows upon rows of pristine, equally-sized hexagons ... it was beautiful. Wasps are basically my angry architect roommate from my undergrad year, only without the drinking habit that occasionally made her pleasant to be around.
posted by sobell at 10:04 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think of wasp nests the same way I think of Nazi architecture. Fascinating when the builders are all dead.
posted by Splunge at 10:31 AM on February 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

How many wasps were likely in that nest?
posted by OmieWise at 11:18 AM on February 11, 2016

Do you really want that answer?

If no, stop now.

If yes, 12,000 give or take.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:27 AM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Holy shit, 15 feet tall and 5.5 feet wide????? NOOOOOOO


I also remember, but can't find (maybe it is actually in that thread) a discussion on here about how mega-hives were increasing in the south because of longer summers/dry periods or something. Does anyone else remember that?
posted by mayonnaises at 11:30 AM on February 11, 2016

mega-hives were increasing in the south because of longer summers

posted by lucidium at 2:00 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

You may enjoy the classic Herzog book (link goes to film) The Swarm.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:14 PM on February 11, 2016

The packing tape around his wrists reminds me of the homemade radiation suits the scientists at Chernobyl had in the late 80s. They just taped themselves in and hoped for the best (allegedly they all died of stress-related heart failure before any radiation symptoms showed).

But despite the trouble with radioactive dust, it's not actively trying to chew through your trousers and crawl up your butthole. Insects, man!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:07 AM on February 12, 2016

You may enjoy the classic Herzog book (link goes to film)

For a moment there I thought you meant Werner Herzog and I wondered how I had overlooked his movie about killer bees.
posted by gamera at 11:25 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I looked into the bees eyes and there was nothing there, just nature. None of the feeling this man claimed to see...
posted by OmieWise at 11:59 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

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