The Wasps of Howard Prairie Lake, Oregon

Posted on
Mar 29, 2012
Posted in: Random Musings, WTF

Southern Oregon is idyllic.

It’s also the site of one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen in my entire life (note: on the grand scale of things, this isn’t saying much. My life is a cakewalk, minus the walk).

It happened last September, when Rand and I were visiting Ashland for our anniversary. We drove to the nearby Howard Prairie Lake to have a picnic on a hot and dusty day. There was no one else on the road. Now that it was the tail end of summer, the hills were were parched, the grass dried out from too many weeks of sunshine, and everyone was taking shelter inside until the scorching weather passed.

It was just us, on a quiet road, listening to music and enjoying each other’s company.

It sounds like I’m describing a trailer for a low-budget horror movie, right? It might as well have been. Close-up to an innocent couple laughing as they zip down a rural highway. Then voice over says something like, “They had planned the perfect vacation … but they weren’t alone.” 

And then it cuts to some guy wielding a pick axe while wearing a Charlie Brown t-shirt and screaming a terrifying and ridiculous catchphrase like, “WHO WANTS RUMP ROAST?”

Or so I assume. I don’t actually watch horror movies unless my brother is in them. And even then …

There’s an eerie stillness about Prairie Lake that would make it the perfect setting for roughly one and a half hours of cinematic gore. Minutes stretch by and you won’t hear a sound. Not even the cry of a bird, or the rustling of leaves as a squirrel runs past. It’s the sort of quiet that’s just begging to be broken by the roar of a chainsaw and the screams of some busty blonde co-ed.

If some madman decides to start pruning off people’s limbs like they were errant twigs, this is the right place.

A large man-made peninsula extends out into the lake – far sturdier than any wooden pier, and the few other people you can encounter are often there, fishing and quietly talking amongst themselves. There’s a handful of picnic tables and benches, where you can sit and fish, or, in our case, hope to have a nice lunch.

Rand and I walked out to the with a bag full of hoighty toighty treats from the local co-op. We had prosciutto and salami and expensive cheese, and, consequently, not a care in the world.

We laid everything out, and enjoy approximately 30 seconds of bliss before the horror began. Before they arrived.

The wasps.

Okay, fine. Maybe I’m being a little melodramatic here. I realize that on the scale of horrifying things that could happen at an idyllic campsite, wasps don’t rank that highly. They’re worse than mosquitoes, but not nearly as bad as forgetting your sunscreen.

But believe me when I tell you that I am absolutely petrified of them. Yes, I fear them even more than moths.

I tried to play it cool, deftly moving away from the food that had taken one wasp’s interest. But soon it smelled my fear, and began to hover towards me in that creepy, erratic way of theirs, then suddenly lurched for my face. It was obviously aiming for my eyes, nose, and mouth. Don’t try to tell me otherwise. Don’t try to confuse me with “science” or “facts”.

Every moth that has ever existed wants to STING MY EYEBALLS AND THEN FLY DOWN MY THROAT AND STING MY INSIDES. This is an indisputable truth. Or, at least, it will be when I’m done editing Wikipedia.

Fortunately, I had Rand with me. Rand. Provider. Partner. Ruthless hunter.

Well, I mean, when it comes to wasps he is. Other than that, he’s a cuddle monster, and I’m totally cool with that.

I watched, both disgusted and slightly titillated as he took a rag and smacked one wasp into oblivion. And then another. And another.

But with every wasp he reduced to a smudge of yellow and black goop on the picnic table, another arrived to avenge it. There was no stopping them. He finally relented. We looked, defeated, as they encircled our food.

And then it happened.

Oh, god.

I still can’t believe it.

One wasp began to hover near the corpse of its fallen comrade. It buzzed around it, as though in mourning. For a moment, I almost felt sad for its loss. We’d killed its friend, its colleague, possibly its lover, and now it was …

Wait, what the hell is it doing?



No. NO. I still refuse to believe this happened. But it did. Oh, it did.

The live wasp took flight, while carrying the other’s corpse. It began its creepy glide through the air, made even more erratic with the extra weight of its brethren.

And then – oh sweet merciful heavens – then it began to fly. Straight. Towards. My. Face.

I’m sure you can logically conclude, as I did, what it intended to do. The live wasp was going to make me eat the dead one.


I might have started running. I might have screamed. I don’t really remember. My memory refused to record it. The next thing I knew, we were back in the car, zipping away from the lake.

“Rand,” I said weakly, feeling around with my tongue if there was any trace of wasp in my mouth, “did that wasp just … just pick up the dead one and -”


“But I saw -”

“Nope, nope. You saw nothing. That did not happen,” he said firmly.

And neither of us has spoken about it – or Prairie Lake – since.


Leave a Comment

  • Erin O’Brien

    Ha! This is hilarious!

    I too am very scared of moths, bees, wasps – really anything that is a flying insect. So gross. So I feel your pain. The minute my space has been invaded by something of this sort it ruins the moment, possibly the day. Damn fear-smelling bastards!

  • Wait, what? He picked up the dead one? WHAT?

    I despise anything that can sting. Josh laughs at me because I always try the “freeze and don’t move” method first, but what inevitably happens is the wasp/bee will keep buzzing around me. I try so hard but at some point I crack under the pressure and start flailing and/or running away.

  • Melanie

    I have a fear of wasps, but for good reason. When I was six I had walked up the hill behind our cabin to explore the woods, and stepped on an underground wasp nest. That’s right, those effers make underground nests too! Now whenever I see ANYTHING yellow and black (including cute children in bumblebee costumes) I lose it. When I was working in daycare ONE wasp came on to the playground and I yelled, “That’s it kids! We’re going in!” The oohs and ahhs of saddened children did not hasten my run to the door of the portable we were housed in. I may have left several children behind. Okay, I didn’t, but I would’ve if they hadn’t listened and come quickly.

  • Janet T

    you hate them all? Even Chip amd Muffy from the movie Antz?

  • I also fear moths above all other bugs because they fly directly in my face (and I’m assuming aiming for my mouth). That and that moths are strangely dusty. Wasps acting like moths seems utterly horrible. Yikes.

  • The wasp was probably coming to tell you…”Look! Just look what you’ve done! You’ve killed my buddy, my hive mate, my compadre……maybe you should give him some CPR and bring him back!”

    Or more likely, he was trying to sting you with not only his own stinger, but get in an extra jab with his buddy’s stinger as revenge! You just never know what a wasp might be capable of!

    • Egad, the notion of a wasp stinging you with the corpse of its fallen hive mate first, before stinging you itself… this will keep me up tonight.

  • Ha! This whole post made me laugh out loud. I remembered visiting my uncle in Virginia as a teen. We were hiking across a weir/dam on a local river, leaving my mom on the other side just watching the water (she didn’t like bridges over swift-moving water), when we looked back and saw her apparently try to fend off an attacking hummingbird! Then she started shrieking. It was a wasp! Didn’t sting her, but scared her half to death. That thing was HUGE. Probably one of these:

    Perhaps rural Virginia is off your list?

  • candace

    The more wasps you kill the more the wasps will come. I read somewhere they let off some sort of scent to let other wasps know that one of their own has been killed, which directly makes them rush to the scene of the crime to defend the scene. I have no explanation for the one wasp carrying the other wasp other than to offer that maybe they were going to bury their buddy, with a cute little song and epitaph, or rather they were going to attack you.

  • Dan

    Bees are attracted to the fruity-smelling goop I put in my hair. It’s a curse – and the price I pay for beauty.

  • Jess

    I think the absolute WORST are ginormous spiders (think the size of a bread and butter plate) that think it’s cool to crawl into your car and scare the crap out of you while driving. I almost had a freaking accident for christ’s sake!

  • Nothing freaks me out besides SPIDERS. Snakes, sharks, wasps – don’t care. But please, no spiders.

  • Trisha

    Oh my Gosh! Best I not read this to my daughter!!! ha ha ha, I so laughed out loud and it is 12.40am (sorry, just finished a BBQ with neighbours!) We lived in Northern Ireland and though it was never ever, I mean NEVER EVER summer there and she was stung TWICE on her back by those creepy wasps! I swear they had a thing for her! Yes she is beautiful, blonde like honey but seriously I can relate, they are nasty, creepy buggers! Whenver she saw one she thought it was in for her because Daddy killed one that stung her! My advise…. take a fly swatter and show then whose boss!

  • This is way worse than Mr. Burns’ dogs with bees in their mouths and when they open their mouths bees come out.

  • Beautiful place, although the wasps have deterred me wanting to visit. Ssshh, let’s not talk about the wasps and their weird little funeral procession ..

  • bfg67
  • TheOtherLisa

    Dude, I am about to make your life 1000% more secure…and fun.

    Get one of these:

    It works. Instantly. With malice aforethought. And, you get exercise and the satisfaction of listening to the little winged demons snap, crackle and pop.

    We have 3.

  • Kitty

    This was hilarious!!!! I do have a phobia for all types of insects, that’s why I only read science magazines on my ipad when I’m sitting on my bed. That way, if i get freaked out by a macro pic of a hideous insect I don’t crash the ipad to the floor, as I always drop it when that happens.
    If the insects sting then my phobia is even worse.

    Your story made me laugh so hard!!! XD i bet the wasp wanted to sting you with his companion’s sting! If I were you, I’d be having nightmares up to this day

  • Ryan Gavin

    I grew up camping at that lake, hell, my grandpa cruised timber there before my big brother was a gleam in my fathers eye.. Yellow jacket wasps are an issue pretty much any where in the state of Oregon, and in fact the last time one stung me would be 2004 at Howard Prairie lake. But I was an adult that time: it hurt, I cried a little, no one saw me, so I didn’t lose my man card until I typed this. But when I was younger? THOSE HUNGRY YELLOW BASTARDS WERE BIGGER THAN MY HOUSE! I ran track back in school, but YOU CANNOT OUTRUN THOSE HUNGRY YELLOW BASTARDS. Especially if your damn parents insist on barbequing THE YELLOW BASTARDS favorite meat: chicken, or engaging in THE YELLOW BASTARDS next favorite pursuit, a crazy death ritual they called “potato salad”. I wish I could say I had an answer for the YELLOW BASTARDS and their seeming ability to teleport into my mouth as soon as potato salad or bbq chicken seemed like a good idea. All the great times I spent at HP with the fam? Now I’ll only remember those fucking wasps.

  • James

    I just killed about 30 wasps from a wasps’ nest in the rafters above my balcony. I put them in a pile and meant to clear them up that night, but forgot. The next morning they were all gone. I asked my wife if she’d cleaned them up, but she hadn’t. The balcony is on the 3rd floor, and nobody else was in the flat. I wondered if the wasps had returned to collect the dead — looks like they might have done!

More from The Blog

On Instagram @theeverywhereist

  • We fancy.
  • Wonderful show with the most handsome man in the world. #osf
  • The meals that my beloved is able to make in tiny AirBnB kitchenettes never ceases to amaze me.
  • It begins! So excited, @osfashland!
  • Take note: if you ask your husband if you can move to NYC roughly four dozen times, he will start to cave a little.
  • Incredible reading by the love of my life to a packed room at NeueHouse Madison Square. So proud of you, @randderuiter, and the amazing emcee work by @michaeliconking.
  • Re-posting this photo that @wilreynolds took of us and his youngest near the beach outside of Lisbon. We're back home now, and I can't decide what I miss more: this little guy and his brother, or Portugal. Actually, scratch that. I know.
  • This place looks like a damn fairy tale.
  • Lunch with a view of the water, and some of the best seafood of my life.
  • The entire drive from Sintra to Lisbon looks like this. It's just miles of blue sky and rocky beaches.

All Over The Place

Buy my book and I promise I'll never ask you for anything again.