A South Carolina business owner was sat on his chair when he first saw the strange mass inside the vehicle on the end of his forklift. Quickly realizing what it was, the man saw that its inhabitants were angry at being disturbed. If he moved too quickly – or in the wrong way – he could be in serious trouble, but he urgently needed help.
Yes, on November 7, 2014, a resident of Moncks Corner, South Carolina found himself in a dangerous situation. That citizen was Robert McDougal, who runs a truck hauling business called Hurry Up Towing. And during his business that day, McDougal ran into some serious difficulty.
To start with, McDougal’s day didn’t seem to be particularly noteworthy. Soon, however, things took a turn for the worse, and it all began with a camper van parked at his storage depot. In the chaos that followed, moreover, McDougal would soon regret ever seeing the vehicle.
McDougal was using a forklift truck to shift the camper when, suddenly, he noticed something. Yes, there was movement inside the vehicle, as though something had been disturbed. Whatever it was wasn’t staying confined to the camper, though. In fact, it was swarming out to see what was pestering it.
That “it” turned to be a huge swarm of angry insects. Initially, McDougal took the buzzing, black-and-yellow bugs for bees, and naturally, he was terrified by them. “I sat in the chair with my arms like this [crossed] for about 20 minutes. I was scared,” he told The Post and Courier on November 5, 2014.
It may have been McDougal’s fright that stopped the situation becoming more dangerous, though. You see, potentially owing to his lack of movement, McDougal escaped without a single sting. He did, however, need the insects removed so that he could finish his job.
Obviously, there was a nest in the camper somewhere, so McDougal called in an expert: Eric “Critter” McCool. McCool runs a pest control business, and his company is perhaps best known for removing hives. What’s more, the Pennsylvanian-based pro operates worldwide.
And having worked in pest control for more than 25 years, McCool was definitely the man for the job. Subsequently, he arrived at the scene of the pandemonium and identified the problem. As it turned out, though, it wasn’t bees that were nesting in the camper van – but yellowjackets.
Yellowjackets are a type of wasp. Yes, although they can be mistaken for bees, the wasps are actually quite different. Regardless, the nest had to go, so McCool ventured into the camper to locate it. And to his surprise, finding it was not the problem.
In fact, McCool couldn’t miss it. You see, the nest was so gigantic that it was taking over the inside of the vehicle. “I was virtually inside the nest – it was very hot [and] stuffy,” McCool told The Post and Courier. “It was like crawling through a bunch of cushions.”
And it seemed like the yellowjackets didn’t appreciate an invader in their midst, either. “You could feel them buzzing against the bee suit,” he recalled. But while McDougal was stunned by the size of the nest, he was even more surprised to learn McCool wasn’t using pesticides.
“I told [McCool] he was crazy,” McDougal said. According to Tech Times on November 7, 2014, McCool explained that they weren’t an option. “The possibility of killing this nest with pesticides was virtually impossible – it was too big.” Consequently, his options were limited.
Fellow pest-removal experts advised burning the nest, but McCool disagreed. Under the circumstances, he decided that the best option was to remove the hive manually. To many, though, that would be a daunting prospect – even with a protective bee suit on.
When McCool was later asked how he went about the removal, his answer was simple. “Bee vacuum and grabbing bags. Quite an adrenalin rush,” he told The Post and Courier. And the technique proved surprisingly effective. Fascinatingly, too, 37 queens were extracted from the hive as it was destroyed.
Even inside his protective suit, though, McCool was still stung six times by the tenacious insects. Then again, McCool estimates that during his career he’s suffered around 6,000 stings. The pest controller therefore remained unfazed throughout the operation, and the nest was torn up by hand.
McCool later described the nest as “massive,” and he wasn’t wrong, either. Indeed, the nest was considered one of the largest to have ever been found in South Carolina. The wasps’ home in fact stood a whopping two feet tall and measured ten feet by seven feet. What’s more, McCool said it probably housed around 350,000 yellowjackets.
So, was McDougal in any danger from the yellowjackets at all? Well, a few stings won’t prove fatal unless the victim has an allergic reaction. A few hundred thousand sting could be a different matter altogether, though. And, unlike most bees, yellowjackets are aggressive insects, especially in the vicinity of their hive.
What’s more, in addition to the yellowjackets’ hostile nature, if anything threatens them they will pursue their target doggedly. And another way in which yellowjackets differ from bees is that the latter are reluctant to sting. That’s because a honey bee often loses its sting after the attack, leading to its death.
Yellowjackets, meanwhile, can often sting many times over. Experts therefore advise calling pest control if a confirmed yellowjacket nest is found close to humans or domestic animals. But if you insist on tackling the problem yourself, pouring boiling water or releasing insect spray on the nest may work. It’s a risky approach, though, and one best left to the professionals.
Alternatively, placing imitation nests in your yard can deter stinging insects from using your property in the first place. As for the yellowjackets that McCool captured, they will be released at a different location. Whether they will survive without a queen or a nest, however, is another story.