Kottke finds the facts behind the guide to flying yellow stripey things
May 13, 2019 7:42 PM   Subscribe

A comprehensive to Yellow Stripey Things (via reddit) gave Kottke pause. "I don’t know if this [...] is entirely truthful or not — a bumblebee is “actually a flying panda” and a yellow jacket “is just an asshole” — but it is pretty entertaining.Has anyone fact-checked this thing? Ok fine, I’ll do it!"
posted by filthy light thief (48 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Occasionally I see a single yellowjacket in the basement of our house. (I assume it has inadvertently made its way down the chimney.) They are indeed assholes.

As I reckon there is no particular need to murder them for trespassing, my usual m.o. is to capture it in a small clear plastic box I have and then release it outside.

As an aside, I would also note that I occasionally see the lightning-speed darting of a house centipede out of the corner of my eye when in the lower level here. My understanding is that they feed on other insects.

One evening just as I was turning off the lights to head upstairs, I noticed a yellowjacket dead and lying in its side on the brick floor in front of the fireplace. As I was on my way upstairs and had my hands full with dishes, I figured I would clean it up in the morning. The following morning I returned to scoop up the body in a tissue and found that apparently the house centipedes had found it in the night and scissored the body into eight or ten pieces.

Good night, everyone!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:53 PM on May 13 [17 favorites]

I swear to God and everyone that the bumblebee that I encountered when I was ten was not trying to defend its nest. I was playing in a sprinkler and I saw it, and I froze and stood stock still just like my parents always taught me I should do - even though every god-damn instinct I had told me to run, I stood perfectly still.

And that fucker still flew right over to me and landed on my nose and stung me right on my lip. At which point I smacked it off and turned and ran like hell.

Again. Playing in a sprinkler. No bees anywhere around except for that one. I hadn't done a thing to it, but it still tagged me. And by the next morning my lip had swollen to three times its size and the whole right side of my face was starting to puff out and I had an emergency doctors' visit.

Ever since then for the ensuing 40 years of my existence I have used that "oh I'm slightly allergic" excuse as a reason to give into that initial "turn tail and run" instinct I always had when I saw a bee, just like I always wanted to do anyway because fuck bees.

(I mean, not completely becuase of pollination and shit but I don't need to watch them, do I?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]

Sitting on a park bench in the summer, wearing shorts, minding my own bidness, and a damn yellow jacket stings me behind my right knee!

Much hopping around, gritting teeth, avoiding cursing, and finally settled down. Ten minutes later, I go sit down on the bench again. Another minute later, another (the same?) fricking yellow jacket stings me on the EXACT SAME SPOT.

The red mist descended, and I swear, I would have murdered every yellow jacket in the world at that point.

That spot on my leg was numb for months afterward. I guess so much venom dumped on the exact same spot did a number on the nerves or something.

Yellow jackets are assholes.
posted by darkstar at 8:14 PM on May 13 [6 favorites]

As a supplement to the Schmidt Pain Index, see Smith, M.L., 2014, which rates the painfulness of honey bee stings by body location.
The Schmidt Sting Pain Index rates the painfulness of 78 Hymenoptera species, using the honey bee as a reference point. However, the question of how sting painfulness varies depending on body location remains unanswered. This study rated the painfulness of honey bee stings over 25 body locations in one subject (the author). Pain was rated on a 1–10 scale, relative to an internal standard, the forearm. In the single subject, pain ratings were consistent over three repetitions. Sting location was a significant predictor of the pain rating in a linear model (p < 0.0001, DF = 25, 94, F = 27.4). The three least painful locations were the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm (all scoring a 2.3). The three most painful locations were the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft (9.0, 8.7, and 7.3, respectively).
posted by zamboni at 8:18 PM on May 13 [20 favorites]

In the single subject, pain ratings were consistent over three repetitions.

Now that's dedication to science. Or something.

and penis shaft

posted by traveler_ at 8:24 PM on May 13 [11 favorites]

I imagine he could skip the self-inflicted injuries and ask tattoo artists to rate the most to least painful places to get tattooed (Rebel Circus rates the top 15). But I salute Justin O. Schmidt for his dedication to, uh, science.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:38 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

I think the only time I was stung was when I picked up a Dr. Pepper that had been sitting around for a while and took a swig. A bee, who was probably as surprised as I was, stung me on the inside of my mouth.

When I was a kid I was deathly afraid of bees and wasps but over the years I have become much much less so. On the one hand physically painful things are... usually not as bad as you imagine them*. On the other hand you can usually just shoo a hornet away and it'll be fine.

* I mean, I'm not afraid of hammers but the times I've hit my fingers... damn. (Hornet stings were often described as being hit by a hammer and, well... been there done that.)
posted by sjswitzer at 8:54 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Florida, and harbor no love for those wasp and yellowjacket bastards (except for these) and they can all die in a fire with extreme prejudice. But I have never been stung by a bee of any sort.

This has been your daily Meaningless Greg_Ace Anecdata. Carry on.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:12 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

As a kid we lived near some honeybee hives, and they LOVED our rosemary bushes. Honeybees will totally let you pet them as well. Bees get a bad rap. They are awesome, just don't mess with their homes.
posted by aspo at 9:28 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]

I can totally vouch for the fact that yellow jackets are assholes.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:32 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]

I love all my bees and wasps! Especially my bumbles and carpenters. The hornets and I have come to a tenuous and uneasy truce (for the time being). I've been stung by many, many creatures. The sting ray was the worst, followed by the Mahogany Wasp in Texas. (In her defense, she was in a bunch of weeds I grabbed to pull up. I squeezed her so she stung me. I stepped on the poor sting Ray by accident. I've never been stung by anything that wasn't acting in self defense).
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:35 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

I don't want to add to anybody's list or anything but cicadas have a proboscis strong enough to easily drill deep into your finger while you're trying to compose an Insta-worthy shot on your phone. I was hella surprised, but not so much as the person who was hit by the flying phone.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:40 PM on May 13 [10 favorites]

FYI, the laws of physics explaining bumblebee flight are well documented. Low Reynolds number regimes, low-pressure eddies, and all that.
posted by darkstar at 9:55 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]

Ugh yellowjackets, yes they want your food. Every single bbq I've had in my yard has featured these little bastards who will land on any chunk of meat that has gone unattended for longer than .002 seconds. They don't get mad when you wave them away, they just ignore you and go right for the food again. Assholes.
posted by drinkyclown at 9:57 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

I'm not a fan of bees in general, and wasps even less so, but the suzumebachi, or ASIAN GIANT HORNET is absolutely terrifying. Poisonous enough to be deadly to children or the elderly (like, humans. They can kill humans), and did I mentioned GIANT? Like two to three inches long, roughly the size of large caliber bullet. And the sound they make, a buzz at just the right pitch that you can feel it, deep in your being, unraveling important parts of your inner workings. Absolutely terrifying. They're the kind of thing that, if you spot a nest being built, you call in an exterminator right away. Nothing you want in your neighborhood.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:49 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]

Today at work the guy who is training me saw a bumble bee on the concrete near some of the pottery. Poor little fellow was sort of walking on the ground looking a bit stunned and my mentor didn't even flinch, he just put his hand down and scooped up the little fellow and kept him happy, climbing over his hands as he made his way to the pollinator plants. Little fatso was happily deposited unto a nice blooming salvia. Flying panda 100 percent accurate.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:35 PM on May 13 [12 favorites]

I have a savage, visceral fear of wasps and hornets (I stepped in a large hornets’ nest in the woods when I was 12). So much so that I have spent a fair amount of time learning about the species in my area, in a feeble attempt to reason away some of my phobia. It...kind of works?

That said, I can personally confirm that cicada killers look absolutely terrifying but are in fact quite chill. My 18-month-old (at the time) once found one crawling in our house. She picked it up and promptly screamed, dropped it, and started to cry. I rushed over to see where she had been stung, but there was nothing. The wasp didn’t sting her or anything, she just got startled because it was trying to wriggle free from her grasp.

Still not welcome in my house, but cicada killers are ok by me. They’re like the goth kids of the insect world. Sure they look mean and evil, but they’re just kinda lonely and don’t want to mess with anybody.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:25 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]

I was sitting in a history lesson at school when I felt an itchy tickle on my thigh, so I went to scratch it… which was unexpectedly painful, because a wasp* had wandered up my trouser leg. So I had to take my trousers down to release it, which amazingly I managed to do without drawing attention to myself.

*what Americans call yellowjackets

The thing which stood out to me as most wrong on the Yellow Stripy Things image was that the honeybee ‘is the bee that needs help the most’. Honeybees are a domesticated species with an entire industry devoted to looking after them. Wild bee species on the other hand are subject to the same threats as all the rest of our wildlife.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:39 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]

what Americans call yellowjackets

Colloquially lots of Americans call those "wasps" as well - to me yellowjackets are just the ones that look more like a bee, but we also have hornets and paper wasps and wheeeeeeee! Lots of people use just one or all three interchangeably, and then there are all the fun nicknames (viz "cicada killer").

Incidentally I've never quite understood the apparent confusion some people have telling wasps from bees. They have completely different body types and flight patterns!
posted by aspersioncast at 5:02 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

If you want to see hundreds, possibly thousands, of cicada killers, hie thee to The Pinery in SW Ontario. Not only the sole surviving oak savanna in Ontario, but it has an entire dune hillside that is cicada killer nests. Sadly they've had to fence it off and put up lots of signs like "protected area" because idiot humans have apparently tried to stomp the CKs when small idiot humans got too close on the way to the beach and started to holler.

List needs moar bald faced hornets, though. Not for their sting, but for their noise. I was on Yonge St a few years back and heard this loud crawnch crawnch crawnch coming from nearby. Turns out it was a hornet chewing up old wheatpaste posters to make a nest.
posted by scruss at 5:24 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]

Wasps and yellowjackets aren't the same thing.

Wasps live in the paper nest they made right next to the door under your shed, porch, or carport.

Yellowjackets live in a hole in the ground right beside your BBQ grill or by the entrance of your tent when you're camping.
posted by glonous keming at 5:29 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]

Been stung by bees, wasps and a hornet. Only hornet's venom caused an anaphylectic shock (basically my blood pressure collapsed, followed promptly by myself). I know they're important predators and scavengers so I just flee from them with extreme prejudice.
Strangely enough, although the wasps living in the walls of my house come out in numbers when dinner is served on the porch, they've never stung anybody. Perhaps they've become domesticated. And watching a wasp take flight with a tiny pink disc cut from a slice of of ham is kinda neat.
posted by hat_eater at 5:31 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]

The most painful bee sting is the one where a bee flies into your mouth while cycling downhill and in your panic to spit it out before it stings you, you lose control and wipeout an entire informal peleton of your friends resulting in the loss of several square yards of skin. But no bee sting!
posted by srboisvert at 5:52 AM on May 14 [13 favorites]

I have a savage, visceral fear of wasps and hornets (I stepped in a large hornets’ nest in the woods when I was 12). So much so that I have spent a fair amount of time learning about the species in my area, in a feeble attempt to reason away some of my phobia. It...kind of works?

Same here. Although I've never actually had a bad encounter with a wasp nest, so I can't explain the phobia. (There was an incident where a bumblebee landed on my back and either got stuck or just refused to fly away, but that was after my phobia was already established.)

I'm pretty chill with bees now, though I don't care for how carpenter bees get super aggro to scare you off. Fuck wasps, though. The only time I've been stung by a wasp was when some small variety got stuck inside my shirt while I was riding my bike, and it didn't even hurt that much, but I'm still terrified and either freeze in place or flee when I see one. So naturally my place in Maine gets a lot of visits from some variety of hornet or another.

But, yeah, learning about vespid psychology actually helps a little, because it's how I learned to discourage nests by painting the eaves and overhangs of the house blue (hanging fake nests also works, but we don't open the place early enough in the season for that) and that the reason there are so many damned wasps and hornets in our pine trees is that the trees play hosts to honeydew-producing aphids, so I'm fairly safe from encounters as long as I don't hang out in the back.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:04 AM on May 14

srboisvert, you can't fool me! A bee can't ride a bicycle!

But seriously, that sounds incredibly painful, as well as comic. Yikes!
posted by allthinky at 6:43 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]

They're the kind of thing that, if you spot a nest being built, you call in soldiers with flamethrowers right away.

posted by delfin at 6:45 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

If you want to see hundreds, possibly thousands, of cicada killers,

You and I are very different people.
posted by Mayor West at 6:56 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]

I am bumfuzzled that none of you other MFers addressed this, but centipedes are not “other insects.” Insects are a completely different deal-io, to use the proper zoological terminology.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:00 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

What a lovely reminder that I will soon have to perform the semi-panicked dance of throwing up the window screen enough to let the flying danger needle escape then immediately slamming down the interior window to minimize its sphere of terror.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:03 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

Anyone wanna know why a mud dauber might sting?

When, panicked at having had its trip to the local 8-Mart for a crunchy treat for its soon-to-be children interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Gaping Maw of Doom that is your partially unzipped bike jersey, it finds itself with no escape, cursed to the repeated assaults of freedom-foiling flesh and fabric. At which point it lays down a hail of jabs that blossom from rose thorn sharp to stinging nettle itch to deep jalapeño oil burn.

The true winner in this scenario is the spider, which, 20 minutes later, falls (still stunned) onto your desk the instant you strip off the jersey and lies dormant until after you've showered and your coworkers - no longer amused by the half-naked, panicked guy sporting 4 or 5 torso welts - go back to whatever they were doing. Then and only then does it revive to be like nbd I'll just make a new home here a half dozen miles or whatever from where that wasp picked me up.

Scuttle hurry, little spider. You've earned this day.
posted by ptfe at 7:07 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]

They're the kind of thing that, if you spot a nest being built, you call in soldiers with flamethrowers right away.

A proportionate response to nesting wasps.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:35 AM on May 14

If you want to see hundreds, possibly thousands, of cicada killers

posted by Is It Over Yet? at 8:18 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

and penis shaft


Everybody's wangs stung tonight?
posted by zombieflanders at 8:31 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]

The red mist descended, and I swear, I would have murdered every yellow jacket in the world at that point.

Ladies and gentlemen, metafilter's own Liam Neeson!
posted by klanawa at 9:11 AM on May 14

Wasps are top-tier insects, they are smart and brave, especially yellowjackets. Yes I have been stung by yellowjackets multiple times, once while trying to save one from certain death. It did not change my opinion.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:43 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid, for some reason I liked to run by bushes and hit them with my hand as I ran by. I wasn't running SPECIFICALLY at bushes, just running by them with my hand out, the same way some folks run a stick along a metal fence as they walk by.

Because of this, I disturbed wasp nests (I was told it was wasps) not once, but TWICE, resulting in me getting stung about 20 times in each occurrence. Luckily, I was not allergic, but both times I spent a few miserable days.

I was younger than 10 the first time, because my grandpa was still alive. He chewed tobacco, and my grandma soaked it and used it on the bites. An old folk remedy, apparently. The second time, he'd passed, and my grandma used tobacco from cigarettes she hid so she could smoke in the bathroom when no one was around.

Cigarette tobacco didn't work quite as well as a poultice.

I've run over a yellow jacket nest with the lawnmower. That resulted in abandoning the lawnmower and running in the house, because yellow jackets are MEAN BASTARDS.
posted by Archer25 at 10:09 AM on May 14

Wait, a guide to flying yellow stripey things, this time of year, without any warblers? No good.

Saw a black-throated green warbler this morning -- tickled me pink!
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 10:10 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

When my parents split up, my dad moved into a small house out in the countryside. He noticed that there was a large nest of hornets (or maybe wasps or yellowjackets, I cannot recall) underneath the eaves by the front door. The house had, as I recall, been vacant all summer and the yellow stripey things were a little territorial and didn't care for my dad moving in. He had no cash for an exterminator and he had misplaced his flamethrower in the move, so his solution was to plug in a vacuum cleaner, stick the machine's hose into the nest, turn it on, and then head indoors posthaste.

After a suitable time, he returned outside and was satisfied that the danger had abated. As he tells it, "The odd thing was that when I turned the vacuum cleaner off, the sound of the vacuum's motor kept going..."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:28 AM on May 14

A few weeks ago I got careless trying to get rid of a red paper wasp.

It felt like someone tapped me in a nerve cluster with a thick slightly blunt needle and squeezed a little lime juice in, followed by some throbbing and a slight rush to the head that went away fairly quickly.

I think I got a bit of a high from it - much like eating really spicy food - but I certainly wouldn't recommend clumsily antagonizing a red paper wasp as a pleasure-seeking method. At all.
posted by pianoblack at 10:38 AM on May 14

And here I thought this was kinkshame-free place.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:44 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

My grandmother used to put a bit of meat on a plate and leave it away from the table when we dining outside. That way when a wasp landed on her plate she’d say “no dear, yours is over there.” We have more success with the little food tent thingies and abandoning any thoughts of food outside in August, prime wasp season.
posted by five_cents at 11:28 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]

I recently learned of the Hornet Moth, which may or may not be what that image refers to as a "hoverfly.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:14 PM on May 14

there's more than a few non-stinging insects that jack wasp style to look tough
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:19 PM on May 14

Are jack wasps the ones that don't strictly observe waspishness, or is it a topsiders, IZOD and salmon-colored shorts sorta thing?
posted by aspersioncast at 7:04 PM on May 14

Male carpenter bees are mainly defending their territories from other male carpenter bees, and will investigate any fast motion (like a flailing human arm) in case it's another bee, not as a bluff charge.
posted by Pyry at 10:38 PM on May 14

obligatory "does anyone read the comments down here?"

centipedes are not “other insects.”
When I learned that house centipedes will devour a cockroach egg casing I was delighted. When I learned my cats will subsequently devour any laggard house centipede, I realized everything was cool in arthropod-dom, vis-a-vis my house.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:08 PM on May 15

I was once tasked by my parents to empty out a yellowjacket trap they had in the backyard.

There were still a couple of yellowjackets flying around it, so I carried it next to this huge spider web with a big spider in the middle, hoping he'd catch one of them for me. Instead, the yellowjacket flew right over and banged into the spider, knocking it right out of his web. I don't know who was more shocked, me or the spider. This was no accident--he went right for it.

I didn't know yellowjackets could do that.
posted by eye of newt at 10:04 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

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