Dirt daubers, wasps and snakes: Country living

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Looks like we’re going to have a bumper crop of dirt daubers this summer. They buzz around the shop and in the garage, building their vertical dirt mounds and acting indignant when I use a plastic paint scraper to knock down their nests. Luckily, you would have to step on a dirt dauber with bare feet to get stung. But they are rather annoying. They dive bomb my face while I’m rowing in our mini-CrossFit gym down in the shop. I guess they’re attracted to sweat, and there is plenty of that this summer.

Actually, it’s officially still spring as I write this. Sigh.

Dirt daubers are members of the wasp family but are not nearly as aggressive as their red wasp kinfolk. A few weeks ago, I went to move a large wooden rocker on the back patio and felt a sharp pain at the tip of my wedding ring finger. I had unknowingly stuck my finger into a red-wasp nest being built in the top corner of the chair.

My finger swelled up quite impressively. It took several hours of alternating between ice and a cotton ball soaked in white vinegar for the pain to subside. The swelling hung around for days because I couldn’t get the stinger out. More than two weeks later, the stinger remains under the skin. I guess it will eventually disintegrate. The wasps were summarily executed with a stream of wasp killer, which shoots a stream as much as 20 feet into the air. I always keep a can handy.

I googled, “How are wasps beneficial?” out of curiosity. Turns out that wasps prey on lots of insects, including caterpillars, flies, cricket and other pests. Our farm has all of these in abundance, and the wasps are welcome to them. Just don’t build nests where I’m liable to stick my hand.


It is also snake season, with three sightings thus far. The first came when I was bushhogging pretty deep in the woods, along the fence line. I got off the tractor to move a fallen limb and found myself eye-to-eye with a water moccasin. I took a photo, and since I had forgotten to bring a pistol, hopped back on the tractor and attempted to run him over. He wriggled away.

A few weeks later, a copperhead was not so fortunate, slithering in front of the tractor as I bushhogged the pasture where Pancho the Donkey lives. Without compunction I ran him over with the tractor and finished him off with the edge of the tractor bucket. I didn’t want him biting our donkey.

About a week later, my BMC called me. She was outside, turning on the hose connected to the well house to water plants. “There is a very large snake down here.” I came down the hill with my .38 special and a long-handled brush. The snake was lying placidly in the grass in front of the well house. I lifted him up with the handle, and he just continued lying there. Again, I took his photo and told my BMC I really didn’t think it was a venomous snake. It definitely wasn’t a water moccasin or a copperhead. Her brother Jim confirmed later it was a rat snake, which eat rodents, lizards, squirrels and frogs. Again, the farm provides a plentiful food supply. I’m glad I didn’t shoot the fellow, who soon slithered off into the tall cannas growing down by the power meters.


I spend an inordinate amount of time fighting off pests — fire ant mounds pop up like mushrooms every time it rains (which is too rare lately); gophers tunnel beneath the ground with abandon, loving our sandy soil. I fill in armadillo holes and remain ever vigilant against the return of the feral hogs, who seem to have left the 57 acres, albeit it temporarily.

It is country living at its finest, dirt daubers and all.

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