WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - A gigantic nest of yellow jackets has been exterminated from a central Florida home.
Ruthie Smarte's son first noticed the nest behind her Winter Haven home in March. At the time, it seemed small and nonthreatening, so they thought little of it.
But two of Smarte's cats eventually became apparent victims of the insects as the nest kept growing and growing, and the family realized they needed to do something.
"This thing got big real quick," said Fred Smarte, who worried the bugs could get into the house and attack his mother.
Exterminators from Florida Pest Control arrived at the house Friday to find a nest they said was the largest ever found at a home in the company's 65-year history. It contained between 15,000 and 35,000 yellow jackets and stretched from the crawl space beneath the house outside, where it was fused with an old armchair. It would hold an estimated 35 gallons, the company estimated.
Workers treated the nest with a white powder pesticide, and the insects buzzed frenetically.
"You see the cartoons where someone hits the nest and they come swarming out. That really happens," said one of the exterminators, Westley Bass.
Later, hundreds of inch-long carcasses could be seen littering the ground around the armchair. Just a few live yellow jackets remained.
Bass and his team will return next week to remove the nest. They plan to keep it as intact as possible so researchers can study it.
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