Hiram Uriah hated spiders. So he cultivated spider wasps of all species on his property in Vassalboro just north of Augusta. He was so successful he had half-a-dozen different species of spider wasp on his property when he died, including the Cicada killer and the Tarantula hawk. It was said there was nary a spider on his whole property.
But that wasn’t the problem for his son Ezekiah. Ezekiah hated wasps. When he was a lad, the poor boy had been stung by a Tarantula Hawk, which produced a terrible sting so bad most say it’s better to be dead, that he never forgot. He spent all his time hunting wasps, and feared the relatively mild sting of the Cicada killers beyond all reason.
In those days there were no established pesticides, so Ezekiah used all his considerable wealth to purchase strange brews from every corner of the globe and dump them on his property. It is no wonder that he developed a strange wasting illness and disappeared on his property sometime in the early 1900s.
The property went through an extended estate battle, and none of Ezekiah’s kin could take possession, as the great depression had hit by then and no one wanted farm land. Especially farm land that was still full of wasps. So the woods took over the land, and people forgot about Hiram Uriah and Ezekiah, until a couple of hunters disappeared near their property. One came out of the woods babbling about giant insects, but no one paid him much mind because he was always a drunk.
Then the animals started disappearing. The deer stopped grazing near that stretch of the woods. There were no turkeys nearby, and nobody could remember seeing a bird anywhere near that stretch of woods. One bird watcher swore that he saw an entire flock of Canadian geese settle down into the brackish pond on the old Uriah estate and never rise again.
But those were just stories, and Sheriff LeMoigne had his hands full of prescription drug thieves and wife batterers. He didn’t have time for stories until the corpse showed up floating down the Kennebec. He was the first one on the scene, and got to see that nothing short of swallowing a grenade would have done that to a body. It was all blown out from the inside.
The state boys showed up and took over the case. Whisked that body off to their air-conditioned homeland security lab and delayed the report for about as long as it took for the Kennebec Journal to get interested in something else.
When the report came out, it said the body was Lucas Smaller, one of the hunters that had disappeared. The experts concluded that he’d been mauled by a bear, and the case was closed.
Only Sheriff LeMoigne had a brother who was a game warden, and they both knew what happened to a body when a bear got to it. Mauled, but not exploded out. So it didn’t make sense.
That’s when Sheriff LeMoigne got it into his head to go on a hunting trip to the old Uriah place. Only he sort of forgot his shotgun and brought along one of the new automatic laser-sight sniper rifles from the armory. He also had full body armor and a helmet. The only thing he failed to do was tell anyone where he was off to. Maybe they would have said he was crazy, but they would have found his body sooner.
It was the state boys who went in and dragged his body out. Someone remembered seeing his squad car parked at the entrance to the old Uriah place, and the state boys sent in two SWAT boys to drag him out. Whatever had done it to him had done it up proper. The lab boys kept the body out too long, and there was an incident in the crime lab. When it got written up, it was cited as a case of spontaneous combustion that injured two lab technicians so badly they were put on permanent leave and one of them needed weekly therapy sessions and electroshock therapy.
The postmistress Morel up in Vassalboro had always had a thing for Sheriff LeMoigne. It went all the way back to high school, when he’d just started going steady freshman year and she’d never had a chance at him. So she just wouldn’t let up until by the sixth freedom of information act request they finally brought her in and had her sign a non-disclosure statement.
Three hours later Vera Morel left the state lab with a white streak down the middle of her hair and a powerful urge to head down to Freeport and buy every crossbow and bolt in the big L. L. Bean store. She spent the next six months communicating with so many chemical companies she became a person of interest for the terrorist monitoring network.
They compiled a dossier on Vera about a foot thick if it wasn’t just stored on a thumb drive that’s smaller than most thumbs. Vera was working on a special suit, based on a cross between a suit of armor and a soldier’s flack jacket. The Terrorist network code named her “Iron Jane” because one wit said what she really wanted was an Iron Man suit for a woman. Only instead of lasers her suit would spray some of the nastiest pesticides in a rotating fashion.
Vera told no one of her plans, and only her old mechanic knew that she’d completed her suit. He’d rigged up the compressed pesticide tanks on her back, and Vera had been hiking around with five gallons of water for the past few months. She entered the old Uriah woods at dusk.
For Vera, every sound, every sight, was amplified. She had a device, a prototype that traced wasp pheromones and could generate calming pheromones for the most common species.
Vera wandered about the woods, marking trees and noting directions. On two occasions, flying things the size of small dogs buzzed her, and both ended skewered to a far tree by a crossbow bolt. Then Vera got back to her car and took out the modified flamethrower her mechanic had set up for her.
By the time the fire department made it out to the Uriah woods, half the trees were ablaze. The fire seemed to have started up half-way up the trees in a dozen places.
When they get drunk at the end of a long week, the men will still whisper about the armored lady who came walking out of those woods. She was covered in a cloud of creatures, but she was spraying a dozen different scents into the air, and killing them by the hundreds.
At first the firemen moved toward her, but when a few of the wasps detached and came for them, the firemen took the better part of valor and hid inside their trucks while the woods burned and the armored lady did her thing. It was a last stand of sorts, but whether she or the wasps would win wasn’t certain. It was the really big ones, the ones that could knock her over, that could have beaten her. But every time they got together she would light them up with the flame thrower or blitz them with a cloud of pesticides. At last the cloud thinned, and the armored lady faced a dozen wasps the size of dogs. Each took two crossbow bolts to kill, and the armored lady fell under the last. It rose in triumph, only to be winged by one the firemen who’d ventured out with his personal handgun. The creature wobbled off into the darkness.
When they brought Vera into Maine General, she was already turning gray. The cause of death was listed as uncontrolled hypertension, but everyone in that E.R. could see the fist-sized hole in the woman. Her body was frozen and shipped off to someplace in Maryland where they don’t send reports back to the local authorities.
Since Vera’s last stand, there haven’t been many wasps of unusual size near the Uriah place. But some of the locals talk about the wasps breeding with the seventeen year Cicadas. That was about ten years ago, so who knows. Vera’s niece still has the armored suit, and the mechanic still lives down the road.
- University of Illinois Says Cicada Killers Are More Fright Than Bite (wifr.com)
- Cicada-Killing Wasps Buzzing Around Chicago (chicago.cbslocal.com)
- Giant Tarantula Vs. Hawk Wasp (uniquedaily.com)
- Cicada Killers (benspark.com)
- Cicada Killer Wasps have Emerged (entomologytoday.org)
- 10 Most Painful Insect Stings (blogpestcontrol.com)
- Summer Is Awesome Except For All Of The Cicada Killer Wasps (mamapop.com)
- A Feast of Cicadas (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Amazing Video of Wasp Cutting a Bee in Half (americanlivewire.com)
- Bermuda grass affected by lack of sun (chronicle.augusta.com)