Anton Savage: Enemy in the skates – my war on the wasps was a battle of epic proportions

As someone who enjoys some electrical DIY, the sound of buzzing from the garage corner meant only one thing – something is now eager to kill me

7th Jun 2024
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Originally published in the Business Post.

Having a corner of the garage buzzing is never a good thing. I have a tendency to do quite a bit of electrical DIY, so buzzing tends to mean something is now live and eager to kill me, or some appliance is working its way up to bursting into flames.

I inherit my skills in electrical DIY from my grandfather, who made his own fuses and wired his own sockets, certain that confidence and competence were synonymous. His wife or one of his children would stand nearby while he worked, clutching the sweeping brush to knock him away from any live wires he welded himself to. It made home life exciting.

If, like my grandfather and me, you take a learning-by-doing approach to electrics, you come to tread very carefully around buzzes. So I tackled the noise in the shed by killing the power. The buzzing continued. It could only mean a high-volt battery in a power tool was short-circuiting.

This sounds like an easy problem to trace. It would be if your garage is either neat or organised. Mine looks like one of those houses featured on documentaries where an elderly bachelor is taken into care while a team in hazmat suits fill several skips with hoarded kettles, jam jars and copies of the Daily Express from 1953. Finding a specific power tool takes some digging.

I was several feet into the pile of bicycle parts, lawnmowers and jerry cans when I realised the buzzing had changed. Not in volume, but in character. It was angry.

I’ve dealt with a lot of electricity in my time. I’ve met the kind where you wake up on the floor and think ‘“what happened there?” I’ve met the kind where a muscle in your arm leaps into stung action without you asking it to, because it’s getting its signals from the ESB and not your brain stem. I’ve even met the kind that springs a surprise on you like a clown from a cake.

But I’ve never come across electricity that gets emotional. Something about this noise was not normal, exacerbated by the fact the noise was coming from my roller skates. Yes, I have roller skates. No, they are not electric. So they should not buzz.

I gingerly lifted one out to find a seriously aggrieved wasp gearing up to attack. So I did the sensible thing and launched a pre-emptive strike.

If you are unfamiliar with wasps, they have an interesting form of communication – they release pheromones. Those pheromones float across the air and provide other wasps with useful information, like for instance “This bastard is stealing our roller-skate and trying to kill me.” When other wasps get these pheremone warnings they go – and this is a technical term – completely apeshit

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