HOM Cleaning tools after kitty leaves a calling card

Q:I have what is probably an unusual problem. A metal tool box was on the floor in a backroom and my cat sprayed the front of the chest. The urine entered the bottom drawer through the space above it. When I discovered it, the urine had eaten holes through the bottom of the drawer and the socket set inside was thoroughly rusted. I'll have to throw the U-joints away but want to save the sockets that are an expensive set. What do you recommend?

A:You're right, the problem is unusual. You can save the sockets by soaking them in phosphoric acid that you can buy at paint stores or a well-stock hardware outlet. One over-the-counter product that has been around for years to neutralize rust on metal and clean it up is Naval Jelly, a product that is gelled phosphoric acid. It carries the popular Loctite brand and is widely available. Brush it on, and wait five minutes or more, depending upon how badly the sockets are rusted, and then wash it off. A little brush action may help for bad situations. Dry the metal well and apply a protective coating to shield the metal from moisture -- auto body wax, a clear spray, whatever is on your shelf.

Q:Wasps repeatedly have made nests on my home. What's the safest way to get rid of a nest. And is there anything I can do to keep them away from the house?

A:I have had paper wasp nests under the eves of the family room, inside a wall of a side porch and even a big one below the hatch of a wooden catamaran on a trailer parked in the back yard. I also suffered through a ground wasp's nest in a corner flower bed. I didn't bother them and they didn't bother me -- too much. Mother Nature took care of the problem every time. All you have to do is wait for a killing frost, and it's "bye bye" wasps. Some folks had a frost already so their problem may have gone away even as you read this. If not, I'm afraid to report, it won't be long.

That raises an obvious question without an obvious answer. If the wasps are killed, where does the next generation come from?


Off-hand answers by co-workers:

A. Spontaneous generation?

B. "Eggs laid that overwinter"

C. "Pupae overwinter in the old nest"

D. "Fertilized young females overwinter in leaf debris"

E. "Wasps take the Bee Line to Florida"

F. "In my attic"

According to Jeffrey Hahn, entomologist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, someone actually got it right. The answer is D. Hahn says that in August some female wasps are hatched and fertilized by drones. They leave the nest and overwinter in leaf debris, behind the siding of the house, behind the soffits or facia.


When spring arrives, each starts a new colony that grows over the summer until the next killing frost wipes out the generation.

Wasps do not reuse old nests so the paper nests can be removed without fear of irritating the wasps -- after all they are dead. Ditto ground wasps. Just fill in the hole.

We'll kick the question of how to remove a nest that is full of live wasps ahead for next season when you might really need the information.

If you have a question or comment, send to About the House, 18 First Ave. S.E., Rochester MN 55904. Or e-mail questions to Jerry Reising at You also may call 285-7739.

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