A few days ago, I was stung by a yellow jacket. (If you’re not from the north-eastern United States, they’re a type of wasp.) I was mowing the lawn in a section where I had let the grass grow a little too long and so didn’t notice their burrow. They felt threatened by my presence and so one stung me.
It was quite painful, and has been for a few days since, but ultimately, that’s not too important. I can simply avoid the nest. But my children play in my back yard and young children can’t be expected to remember where the yellow jacket nest is. So, shortly, the yellow jackets are going to die.
There’s an interesting lesson here—neither I nor my children would normally bother with the nest at all, except that they consider us a threat. By playing it safe—in the sense of not taking chances on what’s a danger and what isn’t—they’re actually playing it dangerous. Because when my children’s safety is on the line, I’ve got some very powerful tools to ensure that not a single one of the things survives to sting my children. And unlike them, I can make sure that they’re completely gone.
There’s a lesson in there, when it comes to dealing with potential threats. In a sense it’s related to Ed Latimore‘s dictum:
Never make enemies for free.
But the general rule is fairly simple. If you’re not sure that somebody is an enemy, be sure that you can beat them before you guarantee that they’re an enemy.
Actually, there’s an additional aspect to that rule. Before you make somebody an enemy make sure that you can beat them and their friends. In this case, the yellow jackets don’t stand a chance against my friends Amazon and the Sawyer company, who will provide me with this rather potent insect poison to pour into their nest:
(There are a lot of alternatives; I’m actually trying permethrin out for the first time. Something I’ve done before which is cheap and effective is to pour 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol into the nest. Note: when doing this, keep your eyes open and be ready to run quickly when they notice who is disturbing them. If you’re dealing with hornets—who I’ve heard will pursue people long distances—dress appropriately and have an escape plan to indoors you can get to quickly. In that case, though, you should probably invest in a more special-purpose wasp killer than can be deployed from 20+ feet away. And as always, since this is the internet: don’t do anything yourself and instead hire a professional to do it for you. Including hiring the professional. Hire a professional hirer to hire the professional.)