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Sound The Alarm—Swarms On The Loose!

We’ve encountered many swarms of insects in a short amount of time on our tiny farm—is this normal or is nature trying to tell us something?

by Rachael DupreeOctober 21, 2016
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

As a friend of mine put it, life on our farm is like National Geographic. It seems like every few weeks or so we have a new swarm of something or other that mysteriously appears, and then just as quickly as it came, it disappears again. It’s enough to drive anyone bonkers, but I’ve yet to learn why these phenomena happen (short of imagining some conspiracy of nature to drive us away from here).

Swarm No. 1

Back in July came the first swarm: carpenter ants. They came out of nowhere, and crawled in piles on our floor and around our windows. Of course, I immediately freaked out and thought the winged creatures could be termites—which would have been devastating for our house that’s held up by solid wood beams. After some quick Googling and a confirmation from our local forester, who just happened to be visiting that morning, my fears were quelled—though only slightly. Unlike termites that eat wood, carpenter ants bore their nests into it, which doesn’t cause quite as much damage, but could still weaken the integrity of the structure.

We spent about two days sucking the swarm up with a Shop-Vac, and we never saw a carpenter ant again. Weird, but OK.

Swarm No. 2

The second swarm we discovered were wasps. While ants everywhere leave my skin crawling, wasps make me want to run for cover. I’m not exactly a fan of pain, so a wasp sting is something I ardently try to avoid.

We began noticing the wasps when we found a few around the windows of our basement. It’s not like we haven’t seen any over the summer, so we weren’t overly concerned about our findings. But then we started seeing them around our porch, and around our backdoor, and then we looked up and saw them swarming around the roof of our house.

Was there a nest on the roof? Our house is pretty tall and sits atop a hill, so even our highest ladder couldn’t help us investigate the situation, though that didn’t stop us from trying. Dressed in our bee veils, gloves, heavy coats and snow pants—in 85-degree weather, mind you—we suited up to get a closer look at the wasps and perhaps take a few out. (While we’re trying to run our farm as chemical-free as possible, wasps are the exception.)

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The scene looked something like this:

wasp swarm gear
Rachael Brugger

I’m really glad we don’t have neighbors in eyeshot—we definitely looked like crazed city slickers.

As I alluded, we had no luck. The swarm didn’t congregate in a specific area, so our attempts to douse them with wasp spray were futile. Our next options: call in professional reinforcements or live in peaceful coexistence until the freeze hits. Our choice, thus far, has been the latter. To be continued …

Swarm No. 3

Not long after the wasps appeared, in came the flies. Not regular flies, though—drunk and/or dead ones. We’ve found piles of dead flies around our windows and in our upstairs loft, and the ones that have been alive, I’ve been able to squish with two fingers. That’s just not normal fly behavior. It makes me wonder if they’ve gotten into the wasp spray. I hope it isn’t a sign of some other environmental problem we need to deal with.

Swarm No. 4

ladybug swarm
Rachael Brugger

Finally, just the other day I found another swarm: ladybugs. This one doesn’t concern me as much. As annoying as I know it can be, this is a swarm I’ve come to expect year after year, as the garden good bugs seek shelter for the winter—though I’ve heard there can be such things as biting ladybugs, so now I’m scared. (You know, that whole pain thing.) I guess I have some more Googling to do.

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