Friday, October 7, 2005
The dry summer has caused the leaves to fall a bit prematurely in my backyard, bringing an early crunch to my walks along the field paths, especially in the mornings when I run my Boston Terriers back there. Who knew that, along with that first tangy fragrance of fall, there lurked an unknown danger, waiting for the perfect moment to strike?
That moment came two weeks ago, on a warm September morning. The dogs and I walked along a path we trod daily, one that crosses beneath a crabapple tree. Just as we cleared the tree, I noticed our largest terrier Dustin, who usually lags behind whenever we walk, speed past me, turning in circles as he ran. From where I stood (and without my glasses), it appeared that he had picked up several burrs from somewhere. It was only when I got closer that I realized that those "burrs" were buzzing, and were really groups of several hornets who had attached themselves to him in order to sting him en masse. Without thinking (and I stress that — without thinking), I began swiping the hornets off of him, which only served to, a) redistribute the determined little critters along Dustin's back and, b) make others fly up in the air and land on my other two dogs, who now began to spin.
Okay, this clearly wasn't working, so I tried a two-pronged approach: get the dogs away from whatever was the source of these irate hornets and beat the darn things off of them. By now, I had come to realize that the swiping technique was a lost cause, so I proceeded to pound at them, the point being to kill them where they clustered. Did I mention that by now the buggers had added me to their target group? So here was our progress back to the house — urge the dogs to follow me, slap them on the back and sides, wave my arms wildly over my head and shriek. This process repeated over and over until we all (dogs, me and hornets) got to the back door.
The safety of the house
My next mistake occurred then — I opened the back door. By now, my dogs were convinced that the day had gone from bad to horrific. What had started with a stinging attack had morphed into Mom beating on them and screaming insanely. Naturally, once they hit the relative safety of the house, they dispersed to various havens. Dustin ran to his bed; Ben dove under the couch and Tuck sat next to his food bowl, each of them taking their angry companions with them. I dealt with Dustin's first, confined as they were to his crate. I slammed a flyswatter around until the floor was littered with little bodies. Tuck's stingers were easier, as I brushed them to the floor and stomped on them in a mad version of the Mexican Hat Dance, with Tuck as the hat. It did little to improve his nerves.
Finally, I tried to coax Ben out from under the living room couch, but he wasn't about to trust my pleading. I got down on my hands and knees and lifted the the skirt of the couch. Hornets flew out, but Ben was not so eager to leave his sanctuary. Evidently in his mind it was better to stick with the devil he knew (the hornets) than to venture out into insane Mom territory. After some more convincing, and a persuasive tug on his collar, he eventually re-emerged, looking a little lumpy.
As a matter of fact, we were all looking lumpy by now; the places where they had been stung caused the dogs' fur to stand up, imparting a punk look. It was Benedryl for everyone — good thing too, because when I went into the bathroom to get the allergy reliever, I discovered three hornets on the back of my pajama shirt, huddled there just waiting for their moment to wreak more havoc. Did I mention all this happened before I had even gotten out of my pajamas?
The next day, I discovered the source of our attack. The leaves of the crabapple had fallen just enough to expose a massive hive, sitting about nine feet up in the tree. For months we had passed innocently under that hive as we took our daily walks, but it wasn't until that Tuesday that we became a target. My family has urged me to spray the nest, but I can't bring myself to do it. It fascinates me, so large and perfectly formed. Besides, the dogs don't mind avoiding that path and the first frost will come soon enough. I feel in some odd way that we have come to a detente, the hornets and I. Boundaries have been established, and I half hope some winter storm will blow the hive down. I would love to see inside.
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito