Late last year I needed to climb in to the attic to retrieve a couple of old suitcases. The attic is poorly lit and dividing walls and narrow walkways make it difficult to move around. To reach the suitcases I had to wobble past the water tanks, climb over a one metre high dividing wall and jump down into the boarded area where the "junk of ages" is stored. As I approached with only the dim light from my headlamp and its drained batteries I could hear a distinct buzzing.
As I reached for the suitcases I noticed hundreds of dead flies and assumed that the buzzing I could hear was from their still living relatives. Where on earth had they come from? As I grabbed the suite cases I came under attack and realised that some of the flies were in fact wasps. As I beat a hasty retreat, beating my own personal record for climbing the wall and clambering down the loft ladders I was stung on my thumb. Hatch closed I decided I wouldn't be returning in a hurry.
One of the suitcases was full of dead flies and a few stunned wasps. I rushed through the house and dumped the case out side. At this point I still hadn't seen the nest.
Later in the year I put into action my plan to renew/replace the loft insulation. The current insulation no longer met the recommended standards and I was keen to reduce my energy bills. Given the awkward nature of our attic and the arguments I had with the Webmaster about the best solution we decided to call in an expert. He arrived and duly surveyed the attic only to descend and announce that first we needed to get an infestation of woodworm treated. He could see it had been treated before but it needed doing again, before we did anything with the insulation.
We got in companies to quote for treating the woodworm - you don't want to know the cost - but there was no alternative, it needed doing. We engaged a company, booked a date for the treatment and were told we needed to completely clear everything including the insulation. By now I had forgotten about the flies and wasps and none of the surveyors had mentioned them.
In February we donned face masks, head torches and gloves and set about clearing the attic. It was as we argued about the best way to proceed and what to do with all the junk (or as the Webmaster calls them his old precious things) that the narrow beam from my lamp lit on the nest. I nearly screamed. I couldn't make it out and I'd been watching a recorded episode of Dr. Who the night before. Aliens were living in the loft.
With more light and on closer inspection it was clearly an enormous (and thankfully deserted) wasps nest. We cut it down and stowed it in a box, abandoning it in an outbuilding for later. The former Student who was travelling wanted to see it. Could we keep it until she got back.
We did and, curious to know what was inside it, she cut it in half. Here is a short video of the occasion. What an amazing structure!
This year there have been fewer wasps around and certainly no new nest in the attic, or the orchard near the apple and plum trees as there were last year, although they must have been close by as they clearly enjoyed eating the fruit. The woodworm was treated and the new insulation laid (well it's almost finished) and a lot of the "old precious things" went to the tip.