The ultimate revenge: yellow jacket soup

mtn voicesThe yellow jackets are back. They inundated my home office this morning. First they gnawed through the ceiling from a nest site that allows access under the eaves. 


We sprayed them. The spray made them drunk with anger. Real honest-to-goodness anger. In retaliation they invaded my private space via cracks under and in the window screens. I tried to hold my ground, as it were. 

Writing a column under the best of conditions can be challenging. Writing one with the constant buzzing hum of yellow jackets droning over and around your head is a test I failed. One stung me on my right calf. I jumped up and swatted him dead. The victory was short-lived. When I sat back down, another one let me have it in my right buttock. I have retreated to a screened-in side porch, where I’m trying to finish this column. 

They haven’t found me … yet. But I can hear them buzzing up and down the front deck, waiting for me to make my next move. I’m not sure that I have a next move. The bee eradication folks are booked up. They won’t get to us until tomorrow. The column is due today … within a few hours. 

I remember the last time the yellow jackets moved in. That was in 2005 or so. I walked down the steps at the far end of our deck to find something I’d left in the yard. As I reached the bottom step, I felt a sharp, hot tingle that turned to a stinging, almost electric pain in my left hand. Then the same sensations occurred in quick succession on the back of my neck, my right elbow, my right calf (I had on shorts), and my right ankle. 

My vertical leaping ability never was significant and these days it’s virtually nil. I did manage, however, to spring several feet out into the yard and swat away at the sources of my discomfort, which I had realized by this time were yellow jackets. They’d built a nest in the ground under the bottom step. I could see them swarming angrily in and out of the entrance hole. 

At that moment I saw that Zeke, my German shorthaired pointer (now deceased and buried across the creek), was following me. As he reached the top of the stairs, I yelled for him to go back. But he kept on coming and received the full fury of aroused hive. Somehow or other they knew that his nose and the tender, bare spot under the base of his tail were his most vulnerable areas. Zeke squalled, but he did, nevertheless, know from previous incidents what to do. He jumped in the creek. 

It’s awfully quiet all of a sudden. I know they’re out there somewhere in the yard or garden or nearby woods plotting their revenge. If all else fails and there’s a home invasion, that’s what I’ll do this time around. I’ll jump in the creek. At least I have a plan. 

And if they sock it to me on my way to water, I won’t forget. In the dead of winter when they’re dormant, I’ll locate their nest, extract it and make a pot of yellow-jacket soup following the old-time Cherokee recipe: 


Yellow Jacket Soup

Ingredients: Ground-dwelling yellow jackets

Directions: Although the mention of “yellow jacket soup” immediately raises an eyebrow on those unaccustomed to such a food, it is actually a delicacy and should not be criticized until tried. Only the bravest should dare to try this dish!! Secure an entire nest of ground dwelling yellow jackets when it is full of grubs. Loosen all the uncovered grubs by heating and removing them. Heat the nest with the remaining grubs over a fire until the thin, paper-like covering parches. Pick out the yellow jackets and brown them over the fire. Cook the browned yellow jackets in boiling water to make soup and season to taste.


We’ll see who has the last laugh. 

George Ellison wrote the biographical introductions for the reissues of two Appalachian classics: Horace Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders and James Mooney’s History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. In June 2005, a selection of his Back Then columns was published by The History Press in Charleston as Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains. Readers can contact him at P.O. Box 1262, Bryson City, N.C., 28713, or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..      

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