Pest Control

About a week back, a Zurich man was troubled by wasps living under the roof overhang on his apartment building. So, he shot the wasp nest with a whole can of bug spray. Most people, I think, would've stopped right there, knowing full well that wasps can't live in a nest that's dripping wet with poison. But this guy wanted to make dang sure the wasps were gone, so he flamed up his cigarette lighter, and stuck it up to the nest. Well, don't you know, when the lighter flame hit the now-explosive wasp nest, a car-sized ball of flame erupted and started the apartment building burning like a dried-out Christmas tree. Our wasp-fighter burned up his apartment, and two neighboring apartments besides. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but it'll cost about $350,000 to fix the building, according to Reuters.

This story reminds me of something that happened a few years back: An apartment dweller took a smoldering log out of his fireplace, and set it outside on his wood balcony. Next thing you know, the whole apartment building was on fire, and a whole bunch of people were standing in the parking lot, wrapped in sheets, and crying in front of the TV cameras about their burned-up photo albums.

It's no wonder that some apartment complexes ban outdoor grills. Not that I want to pick on you apartment dwellers, but y'all just plain can't be trusted with fire. And while I'm thinking about it, let me suggest this: When you apartment dwellers shoot up a roll of film, just go ahead and get double prints, and store one set away from the apartment.

Truth be told, I shouldn't be so hard on apartment dwellers. Back home, we learned to do a lot of things the ignorant, assbackwards, bound-to-hurt-somebody way, including wasp killing. My neighbor, Lee Eddie Redd, who did a little house painting when he wasn't working at the cotton mill, had a sure-fire method. He'd pour about 4 ounces of gasoline into a paper cup, climb up his ladder, and throw the gasoline onto the wasp nest. The wasps would just drop off the nest, dead. They wouldn't even twitch. The problem with this method is that if your aim is off, and you don't douse the wasps with gasoline, they fly off the nest and sting you all over your head and neck while you're trying to get down the ladder. I saw this happen more than once. Most people just jumped off the ladder, not that it got 'em stung any less.

My uncle G.H. had a better way: He'd tie a rag to a fishing pole, soak it with kerosene, and light it up. Then he'd hold the burning rag up to the wasp nest, and toast the wasps. He said this worked best around dusk, when the wasps were sleeping. G.H.'s method required a steady hand, good eyesight, and the ability to figure out when you had just enough heat to burn wasps, but not quite enough to set your house on fire.

I know some of you are thinking: That's cruel. You shouldn't burn up wasps. It hurts them. Well, I'm sure it does. But some pests just have to go. A few years back, I saw a perfectly innocent man bump a wasp nest with a sliding door, then suffer the agony of a nestful of wasps stinging him all over his head. He had to rush to the emergency room, and get a bunch of shots, so the wasp venom wouldn't lock up his trachea. By lunchtime, the poor sumbitch had itching, burning wasp-and-shot injuries all over him.

I say if wasps build a nest anywhere near a spot where people come and go-like over a door or window-I'd rather see wasps get hurt than people. I prefer to bomb wasps with long-range spray, which allows me to run away before the wasps can figure out where the stream of poison is coming from.

In general, I'd say people shouldn't be squeamish about killing bugs. Bugs don't beg for mercy, they don't scream, they barely bleed, and the other bugs don't miss 'em. Even so, some people feel guilty about killing bugs. For instance, a while back, one of my eco-sensitive neighbors asked me how to get rid of an ant hill in her front yard. "Just boil a big pot of water, then carry it outside and dump it on the ant hill," I said.

"And scald them to death," she asked, disturbed at the thought.

"Well," I said, "I know you don't want to use the usual nerve-agent kind of poison. So unless you want to catch all these ants and humanely relocate them, I don't see a better option."

So, she scalded the ants.

As far as I'm concerned, it's perfectly OK to kill as many bugs as you can kill. Nature will make more. The same goes for house-roosting pigeons. I've been shooting pigeons off my house for 18 years, and I haven't made a dent in the pigeon population. When it comes to killing bugs or pigeons, though, keep this in mind: Don't use fire. Use hot water or poison on the bugs; use a .177 caliber pellet gun-preferably one with a scope-for the pigeons.