I've seen grown men act like sissies around little critters like mice, spiders, and leeches. Not me though.
I act like a sissy around wasps. I get stung every year.
This year it happened while I was inspecting a fireplace; I reached up inside the flue to close the damper, and a wasp stung me on the arm. That's right, a wasp made it's way down the flue because it knew I was inside the house and it had it out for me. Now I'm a little paranoid every time I reach up inside a fireplace.
Last year I got stung while riding an ATV. I was flying along a trail and the wasp went right inside my helmet and stung me on the forehead. That wasn't just painful, it was also dangerous.
The year before that, I got stung while inspecting an electric panel; I didn't notice the wasp nest below the panel, and I just started opening it. Shame on me. I got the heck out of there in a hurry, and I was lucky to get away with only one sting.
The year before that, I got stung while walking up a driveway to the house I was about to inspect. I got stung on the side of my neck, right under the collar of my shirt. I dropped my ladder and tool bag, ripped my shirt off, and started furiously batting at my neck and back. Thankfully, my clients hadn't yet arrived to see the goofy display I put on, but it must have been a pretty funny sight for anyone looking out their window.
On and on the list goes. To lower my risk of getting stung, I try to follow these rules when inspecting houses:
- I bang on gutters with my ladder before climbing on the roof. Wasps are very sensitive to vibration; if there's a wasp nest nearby, they'll quickly swarm the area. I forgot to do this a couple weeks ago, but luckily it was still early in the morning and the wasps were all still sleeping, so it was uneventful. I did manage to get a good photo though - click the photo at right for a close-up.
- I'm cautious about every attic space that I enter. I've had to scramble out of a couple attics before, and it's not easy.
- I'm cautious every time I go underneath a deck. This is a notorious location for wasp nests.
- I don't touch old logs. One of my dad's clients kicked an old log during the inspection and got stung about thirty times and had to leave the inspection to get treatment.
- I carefully inspect roof caps, roof vents, and combustion air intakes for wasp nests from a distance before sticking my face in there. I find wasp nests in these locations all the time.
- I stay a healthy distance away from gable-end vents. It's rare to notfind wasp nests here.
The good news about wasps is that they're not generally angry - they just like to be left alone.
Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections