Perhaps the family of yellow jackets that built a car-size nest in rural Alabama this year misread the travel map and skipped right over Texas in flight.

After all, everything in Lone Star country is just bigger, bigger and bigger.

Barry Crutchfield got a huge laugh out of that suggestion.

Whatever caused the phenomenon in the Heart of Dixie, the plant pest biologist for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture isn’t hearing any reports of huge nests in this state.

“I’m a little skeptical of that,” Crutchfield said when apprised of a wire dispatch about a nest as large as a Volkswagen Beetle.

In Alabama, the report noted, massive yellow jacket nests were surfacing in cars, vacant houses, old barns and underground cavities.

Not a summer passes that Crutchfield’s agency isn’t besieged with calls from West Virginians worried about the predictable invasion of the bee packing the powerful sting.

Normally, the jackets go subterranean, burrowing into the ground to nest, he said.

“But that’s not always the case,” he said.

“On some occasions, they take advantage of man-made voids. Sometimes you find them in the side of a house, the wall void of a house or underneath stairways and things like that. But normally, they’re in the ground.”

Crutchfield fields numerous calls each summer, largely from concerned homeowners.

“They want to know how to control them — that’s the main complaint,” he said.

His advice is the same as with any other unwanted bee, wasp, hornet and the like.

“You have to get inside the nest in order to control the problem,” said Crutchfield, a trained entomologist.

“With yellow jackets nesting in the ground, normally I recommend an insecticide solution. You drench it at night, just in the evening, right before dark. Just pour the insecticide solution into the hole. That saturates the nest and kills the colony out.”

One tack Crutchfield advises against is the use of gasoline to burn out a nest.

“That’s dangerous, plus gas is a pollutant, a contaminant,” he said.

Not to mention a mite costly, with gas prices teetering around the $3 per gallon mark.

Each year brings new colonies on the scene.

“A queen starts from scratch and the colony grows as the season progresses,” he said. “At the end of summer, the colony is at its peak, so to speak.

“In states where you have a longer growing season, such as Alabama, it’s a chance to get bigger. The season is longer down there.”

Which could help explain the massive nests reported in the southern two-thirds of Alabama.

If homeowners are bent on wiping out colonies, they’d best be dressed for the occasion, leaving no flesh exposed.

“Yellow jackets are aggressive around the nest, particularly,” Crutchfield cautioned.

“If you get near their nest, they’re doing to try to defend their nest.”

While outdoors, if yellow jackets are suspected, it’s a good idea to temper the use of colognes and deodorants.

“Yellow jackets are attracted to perfumes, different kinds of scents,” he said.

“Never try to treat a yellow jacket nest if highly allergic to bees and wasps. Just use common sense.”

— E-mail:

mannix@register-herald.com

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